Boozman, Hill Request Investigation into Little Rock VA Solar Panels Activation Failure
For more information, contact: Mike Siegel, (202) 225-2506
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and Congressman French Hill (AR-02) urged the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAIOG) to evaluate the planning process for renewable energy programs, like the solar panels at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), to ensure these taxpayer funded projects are able to work once constructed...
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and Congressman French Hill (AR-02) urged the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAIOG) to evaluate the planning process for renewable energy programs, like the solar panels at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), to ensure these taxpayer funded projects are able to work once constructed.
Little Rock’s VAMC received an $8 million grant to the build solar panels, but since construction was completed in 2013, they were never activated because they were not compatible with the local electricity grid.
“We have a number of concerns with this project. First, it appears that there was a significant lack of planning and due diligence on the part of VA by installing a solar photovoltaic system that was incompatible with the local electricity grid. Second, we do not understand why VA would proceed with a construction project that was knowingly in conflict with another pending construction project,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the VAIOG.
Boozman and Hill are aggressively using their authority to provide oversight and requested that the inspector general recommend any legislative and regulatory changes that Congress can make to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
The following is full text of the letter:
The Honorable Richard J. Griffin
Deputy Inspector General
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
801 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Mr. Griffin:
We request that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) investigate the situation at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) that has recently come to our attention. According to recent news reports and information from the VA, in February 2012, VA received and designated an $8 million grant to build a 1.8 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the parking lot of the Little Rock VAMC. This construction project was completed in 2013; however, the PV system has never been activated and construction of a new parking garage has resulted in the tearing down and proposed relocation of a number of the solar panels for the PV system.
As you may be aware, reports about the PV system have highlighted the need for additional engineering changes to ensure compatibility of the PV system with the local electricity grid. Further reports have also indicated that, prior to the construction of the solar panels at the Little Rock VAMC, a construction proposal for a new parking garage had been submitted for approval and subsequently approved in August 2012. The proposed area for where the parking garage would be constructed conflicted with the area designated for the solar panels. The plans for the parking garage purportedly contained a provision for relocating the solar panels to the roof of the parking garage, but the solar panel system was still constructed even after receiving approval to build the parking garage. It is now clear that the parking garage, which is currently under construction and expected to be completed in 2016, will require the removal and relocation of some or all of the solar panels.
It has been two years since the planned activation of the PV system, and many questions remain unanswered about the project and when the VA plans to fully implement this supposed cost saving system to provide energy for the facility. We have a number of concerns and questions regarding this project, and it is essential that we ensure accountability and transparency when utilizing precious taxpayer dollars to support these extensive and costly government projects. We request that the VAOIG:
We appreciate your attention to this matter, and if the VAOIG determines that legislative changes need to be made, we look forward to working together to enact the needed changes.