US Coast Guard starts $50 million solar rooftop renovations in Puerto Rico

This week, Schneider Electric, an energy management firm based in France, announced that it had clinched a $50 million energy savings performance contract (ESPC) from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to carry out rooftop renovations at its Puerto Rico facilities.

New solar arrays, combined with "cool roofs," are expected to save the USCG about 40 percent in utility-purchased electricity, when the renovations are completed in September 2012.

The contract will enable the USCG to meet renewable energy mandates without direct capital investment, and to stabilize energy costs and security in nearly one million square feet of USCG facilities – including Rio Bayamon housing, Air Station Borinquen, and Air Station Borinquen housing.

Already, Schneider said "pilot projects [have] tested the abilities of cool roof technologies to achieve multiple goals, with better-than-expected results."

Once the rooftops are refurbished, Schneider Electric will construct and install 300 photovoltaic systems – expected to deliver 2.89 megawatts (MW) of power, or more than four million kilowatt-hours per year. The new rooftop materials and solar arrays should reduce the annual cooling load of the buildings by 3.9 billion British thermal units.

The USCG project is the first of its kind to combine the Renewable Energy Services Agreement (RESA) financing structure within an ESPC financing vehicle, thus maximizing the incentives and overall value to USCG and enabling extension of the renewable energy financing term beyond 10 years. Funding the investment relied upon the U.S. Department of the Treasury grant rather than the investment tax credit.

This is the largest solar project ever undertaken by the USCG. In October 2009, the Coast Guard awarded the first Power Purchase Agreement in its history to SilRay Inc., of Silicon Valley, to deploy a four-acre array of solar panels at its Training Center in Petaluma, California.