December 27, 2012 | last updated December 27, 2012 9:20 am

Ameresco's NASA Facility Project Takes Flight

This aerial view shows one part of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, where Framingham-based Ameresco won a contract to install more energy efficient systems and lighting.

Framingham-based energy services company Ameresco Inc. is helping NASA reduce its energy consumption and replace its aging infrastructure.

Ameresco's latest work for NASA is taking place in Virginia, where it has just completed the first phase of a $28-million efficiency project with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, the company and space agency announced recently.

Familiar Space

The two-phase project at Wallops Island, Va. — off the state's eastern shore — is being done under a contract with a federal Department of Energy program under which Ameresco is a prequalified bidder.

Though the publicly-readed Ameresco has completed projects for NASA before, this contract is bigger in scope.

"Compared with other NASA ESPC (energy-saving performance contract) projects that Ameresco staff have implemented at NASA's Glenn Research Center, Ohio, and Goddard Space Flight Center's main campus in Greenbelt, Md., this project is larger," said Nicole Bulgarino, vice president of federal solutions for Ameresco, in an email.

In the recently completed first phase, Ameresco replaced nearly 10,000 light fixtures with higher-efficiency units; replaced fuel oil-fired boilers with more efficient propane-fired condensing boilers; installed more than five miles of underground piping to distribute the propane; and upgraded an energy management control system in 14 buildings, including the installation of new gas meters.

In the final phase, Ameresco will build and deploy a $13 million geothermal system for the facility. That is slated for completion in 2013.

Bulgarino said the Wallops facilities were built in 1945, including the central heating plant.

"The result was an inefficient distribution system that wasted significant energy through the antiquated distribution," said Bulgarino, though she noted that many of the boilers have been replaced over time.

Energy-Saving Mission

The Wallops facility is the hub of NASA's suborbital research programs. It employs about 1,000 full-time workers. With numerous facilities and employees, the base understandably uses a lot of power.

But as the federal budget tightens, the focus on sustainability as an economic driver has grown.

NASA, as a federal agency, is obligated under several federal laws to reduce its energy consumption.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires agencies to improve greenhouse gas emissions through the reduction of energy intensity by 3 percent per year through fiscal year 2015, or 30 percent by the end of that year, relative to the given agency's energy use in 2003.

Philip Smith, energy manager for Wallops flight facility, said in a statement that the Ameresco project "will single-handedly satisfy Wallops' federal energy reduction requirements beyond the horizon of all existing legislation."

The first phase alone will reduce energy intensity at Wallops by an estimated 35 percent, Ameresco said in a press release.

Smith added that the project also has addition benefits, including air emissions reduction and water conservation.


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