Update on 10/28/2020 — This article has been corrected to clarify that the approved leases are only for necessary roof space, not entire facilities, and to note that Fairfax County is working with three contractors on its solar PPA initiative, not just Sigora Solar. The article also previously stated that the county will not bear any costs for the solar panels, but a county spokesperson says it would be more accurate to say the county will not bear upfront costs to design, permit, and construct the panels.
Fairfax County inched closer to transitioning to renewable energy yesterday (Tuesday) when the Board of Supervisors authorized staff to lease roof space at the Providence Community Center and seven other county government-owned facilities so they can be outfitted with solar panels.
Providence Community Center will have rooftop solar photovoltaic panels installed on its main building at 3001 Vaden Drive, which operates as a government center for Providence District as well as a community meeting facility.
The other facilities that the county board approved to be leased to Sigora Solar following a brief public hearing are:
- The Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
- The Pennino Building (12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
- The North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Dr., Reston)
- Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston)
- Springfield Warehouse (6800 Industrial Road, Springfield)
- Noman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant lab building (9399 Richmond Highway, Lorton)
- I-66 Transfer Station, workers’ facility building, and truck wash building (4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax)
The eight facilities are among the first locations approved for solar panels as part of Fairfax County’s extensive solar power purchase agreement initiative, which was announced on Dec. 10 as the largest by a Virginia municipality at that point. Contracts were awarded to Sigora Solar, Sun Tribe Solar, and Ipsun Solar.
The three solar providers will design, permit, install, and operate rooftop solar panels at all facilities participating in the program, which also includes facilities owned by Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Park Authority, and Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Under the PPA, Fairfax County will not bear any upfront costs for the design, permitting, or construction of the solar panels, Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination director Kambiz Agazi says.
Instead, the county will purchase on-site electricity from the solar providers.
The solar PPA is expected to help Fairfax County reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and its electricity costs, though county staff could not yet provide specific numbers for how much the installation of solar will reduce emissions or how much money the county is expected to save.
“We will have an approximation as soon as we have a permitted design,” Agazi said. “We hope to have that in the next three to four months.”
The eight facilities that were the subject of yesterday’s public hearing are among 113 possible projects in the first phase of Fairfax County’s PPA. A request for proposals issued by the county in 2019 listed a total of 247 facilities across the initiative’s two planned phases.
County staff say they will return to the Board of Supervisors in the future to get approval to lease the 18 other county government-owned facilities in the first phase of the PPA.
Image via Flickr/Minoru Karamatsu
With the risk of solar installations delaying or stopping altogether, Fairfax County is pushing politicians in Richmond to enact legislation that would lift renewable energy restrictions.
Yesterday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of supporting Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw ‘s proposal to back several bills introduced during the 2020 General Assembly that would promote a transition to a low-carbon economy
The bills include:
- HB 572 introduced by Del. Mark Keam (D-35th)
- HB 912 introduced by Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd)
- HB 1184 introduce by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th)
- SB 710 (known as Solar Freedom Bill) introduced by State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-9th)
“These bills remove statutory barriers to distributed solar electricity generation thereby allowing local government along with Virginia residents and businesses to invest in and benefit from on-site solar generation,” Walkinshaw said.
Fairfax County is facing statutory barriers as it looks to expand its use of solar energy, Walkinshaw said.
“Fairfax County and other non-residential customers are essentially unable to use purchase power agreements due to statutory barriers including a power purchase agreement pilot program limit of 50 megawatts in the service area of Dominion Energy Virginia,” he said.
If the legislation does not pass, Fairfax County won’t be able to proceed with on-site solar installations that would total more than 40 megawatts of electricity, he said.
“I think the key message to the General Assembly is that our projects are ready to go,” Walkinshaw said. “If this legislation doesn’t succeed this year, they will stop.”
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and other board members shared support for Walkinshaw’s proposal.
“Over the past several years, I’ve had conversations with people who do this energy work nationally or internationally, and to continually here from them that Virginia is one of — if not the most — challenging place to get any of this done, I think it’s time to turn that corner,” Palchik said.
Chairman Jeff McKay said it was “frustrating” for advocates when similar legislation failed in the General Assembly last year.
“This is an issue really critical to us here,” he said.
The board voted 9-0, with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity absent, to send the letter to the General Assembly delegation and Gov. Ralph Northam.
Officials from Fairfax County Public Schools announced yesterday (Tuesday) that the county plans to expand the use of solar energy across 87 FCPS schools and facilities.
The new contracts, which are known as solar power purchase agreements (PPA), with service providers are the largest “solar PPA initiative by a local municipality in Virginia to date,” according to a press release from Fairfax County.
“Our move toward solar reinforces the School Board’s commitment to our environmental stewardship responsibilities,” said FCPS School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders in a statement.
The following area schools are being considered for solar modifications:
- Cedar Lane School
- Flint Hill Elementary School
- Freedom Hill Elementary School
- Marshall Road Elementary School
- Thoreau Middle School
- Vienna Elementary School
- Westbriar Elementary School
- Wolftrap Elementary School
- Chesterbrook Elementary School
- Kent Gardens Elementary School
- Langley High School
- Spring Hill Elementary School
- Beech Tree Elementary School
- Belvedere Elementary School
- Falls Church High School
- Graham Road Elementary School
- Haycock Elementary School
- Jackson Middle School
- Justice High School
- Lemon Road Elementary School
- Longfellow Middle School
- Marshall High School
- Sleepy Hollow Elementary School
- Timber Lane Elementary School
- Westgate Elementary School
- Westlawn Elementary School
Photo via Flickr / Minoru Karamatsu
The Town of Vienna is making a push to get locals to “solarize,” converting their homes and businesses to relying on solar energy.
On Tuesday, April 9, the town will host a meeting in partnership with Solarize NOVA, an outreach program founded in 2014 that vets contractors and establishes pre-negotiated contract terms to make the process easier for those looking to solarize.
The meeting’s goal is to help get those curious about solar energy learn more about the costs involved and next steps in the process.
There’s a handful of ways installing solar energy can help residents save money. Those who install solar panels are eligible for a federal tax credit. Fairfax County also offers a real estate tax exemption for five years for those who install solar panels.
In Virginia, residents can also meter excess energy generated by solar systems, receiving a credit on their electric bill at full retail rate for the energy produced by their panels.
This is the fifth year that Vienna has participated in the Solarize NOVA program, voting unanimously in January continue working with the initiative.
According to the program’s website, since 2014, Solarize NOVA has facilitated installation of 263 solar energy systems, saving 1,969 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted and 1,954,180 pounds of coal from being burned.
The program also offers free site assessments for solar power and free inspections for energy use.
Photo via Facebook