Worth more than gold: Solar helps vault D.C. to LEED Platinum status

Despite the turmoil in other areas of Washington D.C. (particularly at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue), the city is LEED-ing the world’s energy revoltuion as it became the first city in the world to earn the highest designation from the organization – in part because of its commitment to installing solar energy on its municipal buildings.

In the past two years, the city has installed solar on the roofs of 28 public schools, other educational buildings (including administrative offices), police and fire facilities are now producing solar totaling 7 MW, which played a significant role in helping the city earn its designation.

“It is in the best interest of Washington, DC’s safety, economy, and future to take sustainability and resiliency seriously, and as the nation’s capital, we have a special obligation to lead the way on environmental issues,” said Mayor Mureil Bowser. “We are proud to be recognized as the world’s first LEED Platinum city. Our commitment to these issues will not yield, and we look forward to continuing to build a greener, more resilient, and more sustainable DC.”

The solar installations produce approximately 7,800 (Mwh) of electricity each year and supplying approximately 20% of the buildings’ electricity consumption.

Washington D.C. applied for the designation under the organization’s new LEED for Cities programs taht was launched last year and enables cities to measure and communicate performance, focusing on outcomes from ongoing sustainability efforts across an array of metrics, including energy, water, waste, transportation, and human experience (which includes education, prosperity, equity and health & safety).

As the first city to achieve the designation, the city hopes to set a standard other cities around the world will follow.

“Washington, DC is setting the bar for smart cities all around the world by leveraging technology and data to achieve sustainability and resiliency goals, creating healthy and safe communities where citizens can thrive,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “The city is once again showing that our nation’s capital is performing at the highest levels and that its buildings, neighborhoods and communities are as sustainable as possible.”

Nextility, a DC-based energy technology company, and Sol Systems, a solar finance and development firm, secured the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and financing for the project, and partnered with Standard Solar to manage delivery of the portfolio. Standard Solar, a leading solar energy company, completed the installations in March.

In addition to solar, the city completed the largest wind power purchase agreement deal of its kind ever entered into by an American city, launched Sustainable DC 2.0, and, most recently, signed a pledge to uphold the commitments in the Paris Climate Accord. The entire D.C. municipal government is powered by renewable energy and is on track to derive at least 50% of the entire city’s electricity from renewable resources by 2032.