Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Camp Lejeune, N.C.–Actus Lend Lease, along with FLS Energy, recently began developing a major solar thermal project that it says will be the largest such project in the country among residential properties. Upon completion at the end of this year, some 900 new and existing residences at the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities at Camp Lejeune, N.C.—on-base housing mostly in the form of duplexes—will have a solar thermal system that will heat water for them, generating about 75 percent of the residences’ needs, according to Actus Lend Lease.
It’s a technology that has application at a wide variety of multifamily properties. “The project has both environmental and business benefits,” Matt Lynn, deputy project director of Actus Lend Lease, tells MHN. “We’re going to own and operate the property for a long time, and we want it to be sustainable over time.”
So does the U.S. Department of Defense, which has ordered a variety of energy reduction measures at its facilities worldwide. For Atlantic Marine Corps Communities, each of the 900 residences will receive one solar energy system by FLS Energy comprised of a four-by-ten solar panel, system controls, piping and a solar hot-water storage tank. The solar collectors used in the project are manufactured by Alternate Energy Technologies at its facilities in Jacksonville.
Currently, solar thermal technology is the most cost-effective solar energy generation technology available, says Lynn. The systems are about four times more cost-efficient than solar photovoltaic systems, which use sunlight to generate electricity.
One barrier to the use of solar thermal technologies in residential properties has been the upfront cost, which is only gradually recovered as energy consumption is reduced over the lifetime of the property. Lynn notes that various financial incentives, both federal and state, have dealt with the upfront-cost problem in this case.
“North Carolina is one of the best states in the country to do solar, because there are state tax credits as well as the federal tax credits,” Lynn says. “FLS Energy was able to bring third-party investors to the deal who could take advantage of the credits, so third-party money paid the upfront costs.”
Also, by purchasing the Renewable Energy Certificates generated by the project, Duke Energy enables the solar thermal energy to be priced at a rate favorable to conventional energy sources. Each megawatt hour-equivalent of energy generated by the solar energy systems counts as one REC.
It’s a model for solar thermal development, Lynn adds, that’s doable in most places, though it might be a little more difficult than in North Carolina. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls from other bases around the company,” he tells MHN. “Other states aren’t as progressive as North Carolina in that regard, but it can still be done. For any property that uses a large amount hot water need–and there are a lot of multifamily applications–this is a proven technology that can save a lot of energy.”