Green Proving Ground Program Puts Emerging Tech to the Test

Eight years ago, at the beginning of the Obama administration, the federal government began making increased investments in efficiency. Attention was given to high–performance commercial buildings, because of the profound potential for impact on overall energy usage.  The General Services Administration (GSA) began by looking at shovel-ready projects that could be done quickly, as well as those that promoted high performance green building.  By 2012, this intention expanded to include solutions really deliver results, and the Green Proving Ground Program was born.

The program works with emerging technologies on a continual basis. Each year, Green Proving Ground Program casts out a net, selects applicants with the greatest promise, tests them out in a real-world setting, and supports those that demonstrate effectiveness. National labs perform all field investigations.

The Green Proving Ground Program supports early-stage technologies many of which are pre-market. The innovators are typically looking for a way and a place to prove the technology through actual data.

“At GSA, we are the largest single landlord in the country. Nobody is bigger than us at commercial buildings. The next biggest single commercial landlord is Walmart,” said Kevin Powell, research director at Green Proving Ground Program.

To date, Green Proving Ground Program has vetted and supported more than 32 technologies, saving approximately $4.5 million per year in energy costs. Success stories are many and range from a smart power strip that clicks on when employees arrive at work and off again eleven hours later to new chillers that use magnetic levitation to reduce energy use by 42%.

Once technologies are proven, the program focuses effort on market adoption. While Green Proving Ground Program began years ago with the conviction that undeniable science would be enough to influence purchasing decisions, it has since come around to recognize factors such as how many people sell the technology, how much time decision-makers have, and how compatible specifications are across the board.

“Our goal is to expand reach and help overcome some market adoption barriers. We’re working aggressively on deployment campaigns,” Powell said.

With two years of steady results in hand, Powell still believes that they have only tapped into about 10% of potential energy and cost savings. “We measure ourselves by how many technologies we have identified and, in a certain way, how many have worked out and how many haven’t. If as many worked out as haven’t, we’d know that we weren’t taking enough risk. If nothing is working out, we know we’re taking too much risk,” Powell said. “We look to see if we have found real winners and game changers.”

Learn more about the Green Proving Ground program: