Solar Energy

Solar energy is power harnessed from the sun. Solar energy is clean, free, and an inexhaustible resource. “The sun provides enough energy in one minute to supple the world’s energy needs for one year" (http://www.altenergy.org/). People began using solar energy for power from heat (thermal) in 1767 and electricity (photovoltaic) has been produced from solar energy since 1839.

Government offices like homes can use solar energy to power outdoor lights, water pumps, water heaters, window film, irrigation pumps, etc. Solar power can also be used to operate gates and signs on roadways. Government offices can obtain solar power products and information from GSA (contact: Alan Searsy (817) 978-8370 or at alan.seasy@gsa.gov). Also, government offices with roof top space or a land base can set up photovoltaic solar systems (solar panels) and produce some or all their energy needs.

Advantages to solar energy systems are that they are non-polluting, there are no moving parts, they have a 20 to 30 year lifespan, operation costs are low, large scale installations are not required, the size of system can be designed to needs, and are better for remote areas than conventional energy. Disadvantages include the amount of sunlight in certain areas may be inadequate and initial start up costs, especially equipment costs, can be high. However, solar systems usually pay for themselves in 2 to 5 years.

Solar Innovative Idea

The Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD), a hydroelectric energy producer, located in Wenatchee, Chelan County, Washington recently began a Sustainable Natural Alternative Power (SNAP) program (www.chelanpud.org/Snap/index.htm). This program allows PUD electricity customers to voluntarily purchase, at a slightly higher cost, alternative energy and support local producers of solar and wind power. The local solar and wind power producers directly input their energy into the PUD’s distribution system and the PUD pays them up to $1.50 per kilowatt-hour. SNAP producers include local landowners, the Wenatchee Valley College, the Cashmere Middle School, and as of November 20, 2001 the Federal Building/Post Office, a GSA building, in Wenatchee, Washington. Solar panels located on the south loading dock roof of the Federal Building collect solar radiation and input that energy into the PUD’s electricity distribution system providing alternative energy to PUD customers and decreasing their demand on hydroelectric power.


U.S. Department of the Interior

Greening of the Interior