Powering Strong Communities

NREL Helps GSA Make Its Buildings More Grid Interactive And Efficient

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has created a plan to help the General Services Administration (GSA) transition its huge real estate portfolio to a more grid interactive and efficient operation.

The GSA, which procures and manages office space for federal buildings, has an annual budget of a nearly $21 billion. The agency owns and leases over 376.9 million square feet of space in 9,600 buildings in more than 2,200 communities nationwide.

The Blueprint for Integrating Grid-Interactive Efficient Building Technologies into U.S. General Services Administration Performance Contracts developed by a team of NREL researchers provides the GSA with a guide to using federal energy performance contracting to transform GSA properties into grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) that can interact with the electric grid, using smart technologies to reduce, shed, shift, modulate, or generate electricity load as needed.

A grid-interactive efficient building is able to optimize its energy use in a continuous and integrated way for demand flexibility, grid services, occupant needs and preferences, cost reductions, and increased resilience, NREL says.

The NREL blueprint seeks to expand the GSA’s deployment of its National Deep Energy Retrofit program, by incorporating demand flexibility and grid integration strategies that can lead to additional energy and cost savings, increased resilience, and leading to deeper greenhouse gas reductions.

The blueprint offers guidance in using energy performance contracts, such as energy savings performance contracts and utility energy service contracts that provide a means of financing projects for government customers who do not benefit from the energy efficiency and renewable energy tax incentives available to private sector customers. Instead, some or all of the energy upgrades are paid for by contractors or the utility, with the costs recouped through energy savings over the life of the project.

The GSA is putting performance contracting to work implementing GEB at multiple sites. For instance, the agency won multiple Department of Energy grants to help co-fund solar-plus-battery-storage projects at six Land Port of Entry facilities in Texas and New Mexico, and at four courthouses and a parking garage in Oklahoma. Through its Green Proving Ground program, GSA is also preparing to test the effectiveness of various grid-interactive efficient buildings technologies at other facilities in its portfolio.