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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New 1.6 Megawatt Solar Farm at USDA George Washington Carver Center and Other Solar Projects

Both locally and nationally, USDA is helping pave the way for our Nation's clean energy future

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – At a ribbon cutting ceremony today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the activation of USDA's first solar array project in the National Capital Region. The 1.6 Megawatt (MW) solar farm, located at the George Washington Carver Center (Carver Center) in Beltsville, Maryland, is the largest solar array on federal property in this region. This project, which is part of a larger commitment to transform the facility into a model for sustainability, will help meet the President's Capital Solar Challenge. The new solar farm is expected to provide about 2,000 megawatt hours (MWh), or 20% of the Carver Center facility annual electrical power requirements, and handle most of GWCC's electrical needs during the day.

"Today, USDA is another step closer to achieving its goal of energy independence. With this system, USDA is saving taxpayers over $300,000 annually in avoided energy costs," said Vilsack. "As a Federal agency, USDA is leading the way in renewable energy in the National Capital Region. And we are proud to say that this 6.2 acre solar farm is the largest solar array on Federal property in this area."

There are over 5,000 state-of-the-art, industry-leading American made panels in this farm and it was built on what used to be Agriculture Research Service farmland, land that is now farming energy. The Carver Center consists of four interconnected buildings and grounds, which occupy about 45 acres of Federal land. The farm helps position USDA to meet President Obama's new Executive Order goal to increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent.

Nationwide, the USDA Energy Management Program includes various on-site renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. In FY 2014, USDA had a total on-site renewable energy output of over 1,380 MWh. Overall in FY 2014, USDA renewable energy usage, including Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), totaled 68,550 MWh or 14.7% of the total facility electricity use.

This project is part of a larger energy management and sustainability effort by the Department in managing its headquarters buildings. USDA's sustainability program works by minimizing environmental impacts through implementation of energy and water conservation, sustainable landscapes, waste minimization and recycling, sustainable acquisition and green commuting projects at the Headquarters buildings and the Carver Center.

Just yesterday, the Secretary announced that USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is funding a $20 million loan for a solar project that will be built in North Carolina by Montgomery Solar Owner, LLC as well as other solar projects. This loan will be used to construct a 20 megawatt solar farm. USDA's RUS also is lending two companies in Cornelius, North Carolina, Chocowinity Solar, LLC and Cirrus Solar, LLC, each a $5 million loan to build 5 megawatt solar farms in their respective communities. These three renewable energy projects will generate a total of 30 MW of solar power.

And recently, within USDA's Agricultural Research Service, the following renewable energy projects were installed:

  • A 7 Kilowatt (KW) photovoltaic (PV) array was installed in Pendleton, Oregon.
  • A 72 KW solar photovoltaic carport system was installed in Parlier, California.
  • The U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. partnered with Alfred State College to install a 15KW photovoltaic (PV) system for the Bonsai Facility. The Arboretum now has three PV arrays installed by Alfred State College students; the other two are an off grid 1 KW system to power remote irrigation controls, and a roof-mounted 5.1 KW system on the Arbor House.

More information about the solar farm and other sustainability initiatives can be found at


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