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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas is a hub of human spaceflight activity. The Mission Control Center is home to International Space Station mission operations, future space developments, and training for NASA astronauts and space explorers. On May 15, Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, joined NASA leaders at a ribbon cutting for the launch of a new combined heat and power (CHP) plant that will support JSC and its critical operations by generating approximately 70% of the center’s electricity requirements. 

The project was developed through a partnership between NASA and DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). JSC utilized DOE’s indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity energy savings performance contract (ESPC) to award a task order to Energy Systems Group, one of 16 energy service companies on that contract. An ESPC is a contracting vehicle that allows federal agencies to procure energy savings and facility improvements with no up-front capital costs. FEMP supported JSC with training and guidance throughout the process. 

This CHP project will not only reduce JSC’s energy intensity and energy costs, but it will also greatly increase security and reliability by generating a large percentage of JSC’s electricity, steam, and peak chilled water loads onsite. The CHP plant and the chilled water plant improvements are the two energy conservation measures implemented via the $47 million ESPC. This is NASA’s first natural gas CHP project and their largest ESPC to date. The CHP plant will contribute almost 12 megawatts of power, which tap into the more than 40 gigawatts of cost-effective potential from CHP in this country.

NASA also received a $1 million AFFECT grant from FEMP for this project. AFFECT stands for Assisting Federal Facilities with Energy Conservation Technologies and is a program through which FEMP funds projects that help agencies meet their energy management, resilient operations, and mission-related goals through affordable solutions. To date, the AFFECT program has funded a total of 17 projects since 2014 and these projects are having a significant impact. About $21 of agency and private sector investment was leveraged for every dollar of federal funding in the first three years of the program.

In addition, this CHP project is the first step in allowing JSC to operate as an island microgrid in the event of a power disruption, while ensuring continued power to critical missions and alleviating pressure on the electric grid. 

This project is one of many successes resulting from FEMP’s ongoing strategic partnership with NASA on overall resilience, cybersecurity, and strategic energy management. Other partnership successes include an award-winning Strategic Energy Investment Plan and NASA’s ongoing operational technology system/cybersecurity program.

Visit the FEMP website to learn more about how FEMP helps federal agencies meet energy-related goals.

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