In August, Picatinny was awarded two Department of Energy grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The two grants will assist Picatinny employees in researching solar photovoltaic energy and help retro-commission some key facilities on the installation, said Nick Stecky, the grant applicant writer and Picatinny Garrison Public Works energy management consultant here.

The grants are for approximately $40,000 each. They will fund engineering and support personnel from the National Renewable Energy Lab, or NREL, in Colorado, who will assist Picatinny study these two energy efforts.

Solar photovoltaic energy
Solar photovoltaic energy, or solar PV energy, is the process of converting solar energy, which is sunlight, into electricity.

Picatinny public works members are currently researching the most efficient and cost-effective way to create a Solar PV energy facility here at Picatinny, Stecky said.

The grant will not be used to fund construction on a solar energy plant, but to provide engineering studies, analysis and recommendations.

All of the electricity generated by this solar energy facility would be used at Picatinny, although it would not supply all of Picatinny's electricity needs.

Picatinny's 64 scientific laboratories and approximately 800 buildings can consume electricity at a peak rate of about 10 million watts. The solar energy facility would be expected to produce a maximum of about 3 million watts of this 10 million watt demand.

The benefits of the solar facility are that it would reduce greenhouse gases, save money and provide energy security and reliability because the electricity is produced on site, he said.

In addition, he explained that solar power production peaks during the long and sunny days of summer.

Thus solar facilities relieve the load on the state-wide electrical power grid, lessening the chances of brownouts and outages, which result from high demands on the systems during hot summer days.

The solar facility will also contribute to Army energy policy goals that mandate a certain level of electricity consumption on an installation must be contributed through renewable energy.

Retro-commissioning is the first stage in making a building more energy efficient and operational, Stecky said. It is the process of evaluating a building's operations and energy efficiency to determine how and where more energy and cost savings can occur.

The personnel from the NREL will help determine ways to use less energy to run buildings. Using less energy not only saves money and resources, but it also makes employees more comfortable by optimizing the ways in which buildings are run.

"If a building is uncomfortable to work in, it's usually inefficiently using energy. Generally, my experience is that inefficiency and discomfort go hand in hand. Plus when people are comfortable, productivity is higher," he said.

The group will focus on evaluating operations and energy systems such as heating systems, air conditioning systems, lighting and the "building envelope" which includes the insulation, walls, roof and windows.

The two grants were awarded by the Federal Energy Management Program, which facilitates the government's implementation of cost-effective energy management practices to enhance the nation's energy security and environmental stewardship.

While the grants were only recently awarded, the process has already gotten underway. According to ARRA regulations, the funds must be spent before the end of fiscal year 2010, Stecky said.