Arlington Co. moves to renewable energy to fuel government buildings

Going to renewable energy can be expensive upfront. Ask Arlington County, Virginia, which is now operating its county-owned buildings, streetlights and even its traffic signals off the grid.

Just like a New Year’s resolution, it started with a goal and then Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said came the hard work.

“It’s one thing to come up with big goals, you actually have to have a path to implement it. And one of the things we decided that we could do was to ensure that all county facilities: buildings that we own, buildings that we lease, our streetlights, our water control pollution plant, our transportation centers, all of them collectively, were going to be using renewable electricity,” Dorsey said.

The county started by reducing the energy consumption of its buildings, and then met its goal two years ahead of schedule, thanks in part to the decision to devote more funding toward construction projects, such as Fire Station 8, to ensure it was energy efficient.

“In addition to a building envelope that has been designed intentionally to reduce energy usage, it’s got on-site solar. So, it’s going to be a net-zero fire station,” Dorsey said.

The best part as the county pulls less energy, the cost of its bills will go down.

“So taxpayers are not only going to pay less over the life cycle of buildings, they’re going to get the added benefit that these buildings are not going to be contributing to greenhouse gas emission. So you get the dollar, you get the dollar value, but then you also get the life value, which is really great,” Dorsey said.

Arlington County is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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