Federal distributed energy projects vary by technology and region and align with key market drivers, including renewable energy resource strength, utility rates, and local incentives. One way a federal agency can approach its renewable energy goals is by examining its inventory of real property, calculating energy use and cost at each site, and obtaining and interpreting local renewable energy resource information to identify and prioritize sites where distributed energy projects would be most cost-effective.
To help agencies develop strategies to meet their renewable energy goals, the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzed the electricity consumption at federal facilities and the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind technologies across the United States. FEMP and NREL compared solar PV and wind LCOEs to the local commercial electricity rate to calculate a spread that reflects the economic attractiveness of a given project. A positive spread indicates that the renewable energy technology has a lower LCOE than utility electricity, while a negative spread indicates the renewable energy project would be more costly than utility electricity.
The following maps and graphs illustrate electricity consumption at 7,000 covered federal facilities and the potential for PV and wind energy projects at these sites.
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Geographic Distribution of Electricity Consumption at Federal Facilities
FEMP and NREL mapped electricity consumption by kilowatt-hours per year at federal facilities across the United States. The states with the most federal facilities are California, Texas, New York, and Florida. The states (and district) with the most unique agencies are Maryland, California, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
Using the REopt tool, FEMP and NREL calculated LCOE for solar PV projects at federal sites. The potential solar PV systems shown are sized at the facility’s average annual electric energy load. Black dots represent a site where the cost of utility electricity is lower than the PV LCOE, indicating that installing PV may be more costly than continuing to pay for utility electricity. Colored dots represent sites where the cost of utility electricity is higher than the solar PV LCOE, indicating that installing PV may lower the life cycle cost of electricity. The size of the dot is proportionally scaled to the size of the spread.
Solar PV projects predominantly appear to be cost-effective in the southwest, where solar resource is excellent, and the northeast, where there are high electricity prices.
Geographic Distribution of Wind Levelized Cost of Energy–Price Spreads
Using the REopt tool, FEMP and NREL calculated LCOE for wind projects at federal sites. The potential wind systems shown are sized at the facility’s average annual electric energy load. Black dots represent a site where the cost of utility electricity is lower than the wind LCOE, indicating that installing wind may be more costly than continuing to pay for utility electricity. Colored dots represent sites where the cost of utility electricity is higher than the wind LCOE, indicating that installing wind may lower the life cycle cost of electricity. The size of the dot is proportionally scaled to the size of the spread.
Wind projects are more cost-effective in the plains, where there is ample wind resource, in the northeast, where there are high electricity prices, and in California, which has a combination of adequate wind resource and high electricity prices.
Levelized Cost of Energy–Price Spreads by Project Capacity
At the 2014 national average commercial electricity price of $0.1075/kWh, solar PV projects are generally cost-effective (within $0.05/kWh of the average commercial electricity price) at all capacities. Many wind projects show a negative spread at low capacities, but have a higher probability of being cost-effective above 1,500 kW.