April 14th, 2015 by Tina Casey
The US fossil fuel industry is rapidly losing customers, and now it looks like you can add Woodsy Owl to the list. Woodsy is the iconic spokes-owl for the US Forest Service’s conservation programs, and the agency has just joined forces with the Energy Department and the General Services Administration for the nation’s first ever inter-agency, standardized solar PPA program. Short for power purchase agreement, the new solar PPA program is expected to ramp up the federal government’s adoption of solar power to hyperspeed.
Stakes Are High For The New US Solar PPA Program
For those of you new to the topic, PPAs have become a common way for individual households and other property owners to get solar power without having to pay up front for the solar panels. The idea is that you provide your rooftop or other real estate to the solar developer for free. In return, you simply pay for the solar-generated electricity you use or pay a predetermined monthly rate for some specific period of time, typically at a lower rate than the conventional grid.
The US Defense Department has been an early solar PPA adopter, both for massivedistributed rooftop systems as well as ground-mounted, utility-scale solar PPAs.
However, most other federal agencies are still working piecemeal, and many don’t have the economy of scale that can enable the Defense Department to get volume discounts.
With 500,000 buildings under its belt and an electricity bill of $5 billion per year, the federal government has plenty of incentive to speed up the transition to solar power and other renewables.
The new federal solar PPA partnership, called the Federal Aggregated Solar Procurement Project (FASPP), was pulled together by the US Environmental Protection Agency after officials there learned of a similar, local-level government program in Silicon Valley. FASPP will leverage the General Service Administration’s contract solicitation platform to nail down volume discounts and speed up the contracting process.
The Energy Department’s role is to provide technical support, and the Forest Service will provide the property for the solar installations.
Rather than re-inventing the wheel for each site, Woodsy — that is, the US Forest Service — will be able to hitch onto the pre-vetted FASPP contractor and third-party financing entity.
The first round of projects will tote up to 5 megawatts and cover 9 different Forest Service sites in California and Nevada.
If you own a solar business and you want to get in on the action, you have until May 29 to check into the General Services solar PPA pipeline.
Plenty More Solar Where That Came From
If the new partnership is successful, it will set the stage for more agencies to climb on board — we’re thinking the Energy Department, for one, is itching to jump in.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department has been keeping itself — and the US solar industry — very busy this year.
In addition to the many solar projects previously covered by CleanTechnica, just last week the US Navy announced that it will lease land at its massive Pearl Harbor base for a 50 megawatt solar array. The new array will be developed for Hawaiian Electric Co., for possible use as a community solar project.
Also last week, the US Army broke ground on a 15 megawatt solar project at Fort Detrick in Maryland, in partnership with the Massachusetts company Ameresco.
The Army has lots more in the pipeline and you can read all about it at the Office of Energy Initiatives.
Image Credit (screenshot, cropped): Courtesy of US Forest Service.