Why Ameresco Focuses on Energy Resiliency for the Federal Government

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Nicole Bulgarino, executive vice president of Ameresco’s Federal Solutions Group, talks about microgrids and energy resiliency in an interview at Microgrid 2018 with Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge editor-in-chief.

The U.S. federal government is one of the nation’s largest energy consumers, and has been a primary customer of Ameresco since the company’s inception. They are natural partners, according to Bulgarino, because the federal government is a leader in incorporating and installing innovative technologies — the kind of products that differentiate Ameresco.

Ameresco has done billions of dollars of energy work with the U.S. government, mostly through performance contracting, through which the company guarantees energy performance and savings.

“The government doesn’t have to outlay capital, and that has been very key for them, obviously, through budget shortfalls over many years,” Bulgarino said.

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Ameresco’a federal clients range from the General Service Administration (GSA) and Department of Defense to Army and Navy, and Marine bases, to the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Prisons.

The federal sector pursues microgrids and distributed energy with a key objective — energy resiliency.

“Yes, there is definitely interest in resiliency, resiliency being their ability to maintain operations amid challenging events or unplanned events,” she said.

Concerns about cybersecurity drive government interest in energy resiliency, as does extreme weather, natural disasters, and the problem of aging infrastructure.

In fact, a recent Ameresco project  — a new energy system at the Marine Corp.’s Parris Island in South Carolina — arose out of these concerns. Parris Island is the Marine Corp.’s primary training base for new recruits.

Being on an island makes the base more vulnerable to utility failures from hurricanes and flooding.

“The smaller your load is, the more easy it is to protect. So energy efficiency first.”

In developing the project, Ameresco first sought to make the base as energy efficient as possible. The company promotes energy efficiency as a primary initial undertaking in its projects “because the smaller your load is, the more easy it is to protect,” Bulgarino said. “So energy efficiency first.”

Ameresco installed a new cogeneration system on the island, along with 5 MW of solar and a new battery.

This gives the Parris Island training center the ability to continue operation with no impact from a utility power outage, Bulgarino said. The project also served to bring 80 percent of the base’s energy in-house.

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