The District of Columbia Housing Authority already dramatically reduced its energy consumption over the past eight years, but is taking great strides to go even further.
DCHA is the first housing authority to complete a federally approved major sustainability program and apply for a second – which includes a first of its kind authority-owned and operated power plant.
“Not only are we making advances in cleaner and healthier communities for our customers and neighbors, but we are also creating career paths for our customers in the green economy,” said DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman.
Funding for the program, called an Energy Capital Improvement Plan (ECIP), was voted on at DCHA’s Board of Commissioners meeting in March. The $104 million ECIP 2 includes sustainable improvements at 44 properties, including solar and flue gas systems.
“Currently, we have conservative estimates for energy production and savings for the agency, but DCHA will definitely exceed the savings generated by ECIP 1,” said Michael Brown, DCHA’s deputy director in the Office of Capital Programs.
The $26 million ECIP 1 incorporated a variety of measures, including cooling towers, efficient boilers and heaters, and photovoltaic panels, to lower energy use at its properties and create healthier environments for its customers. The agency reduced its electricity usage by more than 1 million kilowatt hours and natural gas consumption by 635,346 therms annually. This reduction is equal to preventing 4,091 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, the same amount of energy used by 373 typical homes or more than 9.7 million miles driven in a car.
DCHA plans to improve upon this success by building a combined heating and cooling plant at Langston Terrace. The plant will build a microgrid that produces power, most likely using a solar PV and fuel cell mix, that is expected to produce 100 percent of the electricity at Langston Terrace and as much as 15 percent of the electricity at DCHA’s remaining properties, based on feasibility studies. Once funding and the plan are approved, they will be finalized by summer, followed by construction.
“There was a lot interaction and engagement from the residents during the feasibility study,” said Kerry Smyser, deputy director of the Office of Capital Programs.
DCHA and its partners held several sessions to teach residents about renewable energy, listen to customers’ ideas, and create a program that would benefit families. There were field trips and a scholarship competition for Langston’s young residents to further explore sustainable programs in the District and worldwide, she said.
“We want to make sure our customers are aware of what is happening here, but also outside of our properties and in the country,” Brown said.
As the project develops, there will be more resident and community education plus job training and opportunities relating to the plant’s construction and operation, he said.
While Langston Terrace is the showcase project of ECIP 2, a total of 44 properties will receive energy upgrades. DCHA plans to increase its solar capacity ten-fold and to conserve water by installing low-flow plumbing fixtures and installing more efficient pumps throughout its properties. Several properties will be linked into a computerized monitoring system that will provide real-time data on new heating and cooling systems. This will make customers and employees more aware of their energy use, but allow employees to respond quickly to any problems or issues to maximize savings.
DCHA looks forward to continuing to create healthy, happy families in sustainable environments. The authority has been focused on making renewable and environmentally friendly improvements to its portfolio since 2007. To encourage these efforts, DCHA accepted President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce the agency’s energy use by 20 percent by 2021 from its 2011 baseline. The Langston microgrid and other projects within ECIP 2 will get the agency even closer to its goal.