St. Croix federal building could soon be most energy-efficient in U.S.


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ST. CROIX - The cleared field next to the Almeric Christian Federal Building in Golden Rock is now a beehive of activity, with areas staked out, construction work going on and plenty of cargo trailers.

The federal building is undergoing some large-scale energy-efficiency upgrades, including the installation of a photovoltaic system to harness power from the sun to fuel the building, officials said.

"The estimate is that the new system should be sized to fully power the court house," said Renee Miscione, a spokeswoman for the U.S. General Services Administration.

The General Services Administration is the arm of the federal government that administers and maintains federal office buildings across the country. The project at the Almeric Christian Federal Building, now under way, involves the installation of the photovoltaic system, as well as a variety of other energy-efficient upgrades to the building, Miscione said.

The goal is to make it the first federal building to be a zero net-energy building, she said. A zero net-energy building relies on energy conservation measures and on-site renewable energy resources to meet all its electric needs.

The $6.4 million contract with Schneider Electric to make the upgrades at the Christian Federal Building is an energy savings performance contract, she said.

An energy savings performance contract allows federal agencies to complete energy-savings projects without up-front capital costs and special appropriations, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Instead, the contract is paid for with the energy cost savings realized over the long-term.

In March 2012, the General Services Administration announced that 30 of its federal buildings, totaling almost 17 million square feet, would be participating in the Deep Retrofit Challenge - an initiative to achieve deep energy savings. The Almeric Christian Federal Building is one of those buildings.

"This is a challenge to the private sector to bring innovative, energy-saving retrofits to federal buildings and to take performance-based contracts to the next level," Martha Johnson, administrator of the General Services Administration, said in the 2012 press release announcing the challenge. "These retrofit projects create jobs, and performance-based contracts provide government with decades of lower utility bills and long-term cost savings without an up-front investment from the taxpayers."

Just months before the announcement, in December 2011, President Obama directed federal agencies to enter into at least $2 billion in performance-based contracts over the next two years to achieve substantial energy savings and to create jobs.

For the project on St. Croix, the contract with Schneider Electric is a 19-year contract, Miscione said.

The long-term energy cost savings from the project are estimated to be approximately $13 million over the cost of the contract, she said.

"It's not just the photovoltaic system. There are other improvements," she said. Those improvements will include energy-efficient lighting, inside and out, and a number of other measures aimed at energy conservation, she said.

Miscione said Tuesday she did not know whether the building would be disconnected from the V.I. Water and Power Authority as a power source once the project is completed.

The Daily News was unable to interview anyone with Schneider Electric about the specifics of the project on Tuesday.

In 2009, about $1.7 million in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was earmarked to make the Ron deLugo Federal Building on St. Thomas more energy efficient and environmentally sound.

Miscione said that the project on St. Croix is making similar changes, but on a much larger scale. The St. Croix project is scheduled to be completed this fall.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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