NIST Solar Array Expected to Save Agency $3.5 Million

NIST Solar Array Expected to Save Agency $3.5 Million
(Photo: The 5.01 MW solar project at NIST’s campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Courtesy of NIST and Constellation)

The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Constellation recently unveiled a new 5.01 MW (DC) solar project at the agency’s campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The project is expected to save millions of dollars and prevent carbon emissions.

Constellation, an Exelon company, says the array includes nearly 15,000 solar panels and should produce more than 8 million kilowatt-hours of energy in the first year. That amount represents about 4% of the campus’ energy consumption.

During the first 20 years of operation, Constellation predicts that the array will save NIST at least $3.5 million. Annually, the project should prevent an estimated 6,200 metric tons of carbon emissions from being released.

“With this project, we get it all: cleaner air, lower costs, and stronger support for private industry,” said the agency’s director Walter G. Copan, who is also Under Secretary of Commerce for standards and technology. NIST is a non-regulatory agency of the US Department of Commerce that works to advance measurement science, standards, and technology.

Constellation and NIST explained that the solar array was built through a DOE contract program that allows federal agencies to procure energy-saving projects without requiring upfront capital costs or special Congressional appropriations. Constellation, which funded the project, will own and operate it. The Baltimore-based energy provider also assumes the cost to maintain the array over the contract period.

The agency says it agreed to purchase the solar-generated electricity from the energy provider during the contract period at a rate 30% lower than the normal electricity cost.

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