The Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) will soon be producing electricity! FLETC, in partnership with the Washington Gas Light Company (WGL), is constructing a photovoltaic (PV) solar array on 12 acres of land located in the northwestern corner of the Cheltenham, Maryland, Training Delivery Point (TDP). Over 6,000 solar panels will be used to generate a total power output of 1.875 Megawatts. What does that mean? It means that this PV system will supply 50 to 60 percent of Cheltenham’s electrical usage, which is equivalent to the average electricity used in 150 American homes for one year. The PV is scheduled to begin electrical production in April 2021.
In addition to the solar array, Cheltenham is converting from heating buildings with fuel oil to heating with natural gas and upgrading over 2,000 light fixtures to light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. A natural gas piping supply, along with thirteen new boilers, was installed in ten of Cheltenham’s buildings. This shift from fuel to natural gas improves FLETC’s resilience in several ways: first, the new natural gas delivery system is more dependable than delivering fuel oil by truck; second, natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel, so greenhouse gas emissions will also be reduced; third, a less obvious and indirect environmental benefit, is the elimination of the potential for fuel oil spills or leaks and potential costly cleanup and penalties from state regulators.
So how did FLETC achieve this success? To accomplish these resilient and sustainable improvements, FLETC awarded a Utility Energy Services Contract (UESC) to WGL, the local natural gas utility. WGL, through its subsidiary Washington Gas Light Energy Systems (WGL-ES), completed a high-level Preliminary Energy Audit at Cheltenham in January 2016 to identify a list of energy conservation measures (ECMs).
These ECMs were further analyzed in a Detailed Feasibility Study (DFS), completed in May 2017, which recommended the three viable ECMs for construction. The DFS laid out the “business case,” detailing the economics and overall project design. The UESC was financed by the contractor, who then performed the work. FLETC’s debt obligation will be repaid to the contractor from the energy savings over seventeen years.
The Cheltenham solar array, along with the natural gas and lighting ECMs, will help FLETC and the Department of Homeland Security meet their overall sustainability, mission readiness, and resiliency goals. FLETC will save over $400,000 annually in energy costs in addition to much-needed modernized infrastructure.