D.C.’s largest solar canopy unveiled at Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus

New Columbia Solar

The District’s largest solar canopy was unveiled on the grounds of the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus (RIC), located on the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus. Several representatives from District government and the business community participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the installation, which is part of the District’s Solar for All program. The canopy will provide more than 325 income-qualified households with clean, renewable energy and electricity bill savings over the next 15 years.

At the event, District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) Director Tommy Wells announced New Columbia Solar and Children’s National Hospital are 2021 District Sustainability Award co-recipients for the execution of this project, which will be recognized alongside other award recipients on April 28.

“I am pleased to celebrate this innovative, award-winning project, accomplished with our partners for the benefit of our residents and community,” said Wells. “The completion of this project by New Columbia Solar is a tremendous achievement that will not only help to meet Mayor Bowser’s climate and clean energy goals for the District, but will also help to reduce energy costs for low-income households. The District is proud to be a national leader in sustainability, and this project further demonstrates our commitment to deploying solar and developing scalable solutions in a way that prioritizes equitable access for all.”

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The clean energy generated by this solar array, which is on the RIC parking garage, will be distributed through the Solar for All program, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s initiative to provide 100,000 low-to-moderate income families with the benefits of locally generated clean energy. This installation will serve more than 325 income-qualified DC families, saving each household up to $500 annually, and saving these families up to $2.4 million over 15 years.

Joining to celebrate the project and the partnerships that made the project possible were Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3); DOEE Director Tommy Wells; Children’s National Hospital Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for Patient Care Services Kathy Gorman; Commissioner Emile Thompson, District of Columbia Public Service Commission; DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) Director Ted Trabue; and New Columbia Solar CEO Mike Healy.

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“This project is the perfect example of why operating a solar company in the District is so rewarding,” said New Columbia Solar (NCS) CEO Mike Healy. “I look at this project and see major decision-makers in DC coming together, in the middle of a global pandemic, to prioritize powering our city through clean energy and to offset utility expenses for the families in our community who are most in need.”

The installation began when Children’s National acquired a large five-story above-grade parking garage, which provided the perfect location for a cutting-edge solar array. The original goal for the parking garage was always to incorporate a solar array however, the installation of the 1,148 kW system was an engineering feat, representing one of the District’s most complex solar systems. For example, the load-bearing capacity of the concrete deck was less than the weight of the Spydercrane needed to lift and install the steel canopy frame. NCS’s engineering team had to devise creative solutions, such as using large steel “railroad ties” to disperse the load of the Spydercrane across a larger surface area.

The installation process was well worth the struggle–in addition to the environmental benefits of solar energy, the array supports District families through Solar for All.

“When we began to plan the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus, we wanted to do more than discover new and better ways to care for children. We also wanted to support the local community,” said President and CEO of Children’s National Kurt Newman, MD. “I’m proud that we could incorporate the solar design into our campus thereby returning clean energy to the residents of Ward 4 and doing our part to support the environment.”

Over the past two years operating DOEE’s Solar for All program, the DCSEU has worked with local solar developers to install 130 community solar facilities across the District. These installations are expected to serve more than 4,000 income-qualified DC families, with more community solar projects slated to be developed in 2021 to serve an additional 2,000 households.

“It’s an honor to deliver the Solar for All program in partnership with District government and the DC business community,” said DCSEU Director Ted Trabue. “These projects bring opportunities to District businesses, jobs to DC residents, and critical electricity bill savings to families who need it, all while helping work towards a carbon-free DC.”

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