- Arlington's Java Shack gets part of its electricity from its solar panel. (Photo: TBD Staff)
Correction: The original version of this story stated that the draft of the Community Energy Plan will be complete in September. Actually, the technical working group's draft recommendations that will inform the larger plan are expected to be complete in September. The Community Energy Plan is expected to be complete by April.
It also stated that there will be two town hall meetings on the energy plan. Actually, one of those meetings already occurred, and the other is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2010.
After eight months of information gathering and preparation, Arlington County is getting ready to vet a sweeping energy plan that will guide the area's energy usage vision for the next 40 years. A draft of the
county board-commissioned Community Energy Plan recommendations that will inform the Community Energy Plan is expected to be released in September.
On a smaller scale, however, many in Arlington are already way ahead of the game. Two separate initiatives, one utilizing solar power and another one for smart meters, are planning to ramp up significantly in the coming months.
Starting next month, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment will announce the first pilot project in their Solar Raisers program to install solar-powered water heaters in homes in Arlington. The group is hoping to install one heater in October with the potential to install "many more" in the future according to ACE spokesperson Dan Conant.
Solar Raisers looks to bring neighbors together in the style of old-fashioned barn raisings to put in a day's work helping to install solar powered water heaters. The volunteer installation reduces the total cost of one of the heaters by more than half, according to ACE.
The group is now accepting applications for homes willing to purchase the $2,300 heaters, as well as for volunteers to help install the systems.
Dominion Virginia Power has also begun installing smart meters on homes and other buildings around Arlington, according to the company.
The smart meters will allow Dominion to read up-to-the-minute electricity usage information remotely, and reduce the amount of vehicles needed to read meters. About 2,500 of the meters have been installed. A total of 19,221 smart meters are expected to be installed in Arlington by the end of the year, according to Dominion.
The meters haven't been installed quite as quickly as the company had hoped, Dominion spokesperson Le Ha Anderson says. "Our meter readers have been assigned to other jobs to help with storm restoration, which has been ongoign throughout this summer," Anderson said.
Programs like these are small pieces of the larger jigsaw puzzle that is Arlington's overall energy profile. Alternately, what the Community Energy Plan aims to do is "enhance Arlington’s economic competitiveness, ensure reliable and affordable energy supplies, and demonstrate the County’s long-term commitment to environmental responsibility," according to the county's website.
The plan is expected to include recommendations about how to combine the energy infrastructure of groups of buildings and entire districts of Arlington in order to maximize energy efficiency. By way of example, points out Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Philip Keating, the task force has been examining how buildings that hold offices, other commercial businesses and residential spaces located in the same sector could share heating, cooling, and other energy intensive systems because their peak load times would complement each other.
The county could be in for some lively discussion on this front, however, as private development companies look for clear answers as to how such a program would work. "The plan looks to change the way energy is used on a neighborhood basis," Keating says. "In Arlington, which is an environment where buildings are constructed on a one-by-one basis ... the trick is, how is this infrastructure going to get built? Who will own it, and who is going to pay for it."
Keating said that developers may look to have the energy plan guidelines implemented as something larger than a simple negotiating point in site plans for new projects. "These decisions need to be made on a county basis to figure out these key questions," Keating said.
Business owners will have a chance to voice these concerns at
two a town hall meeting on the plan that are expected to happen later this year scheduled for Oct. 21. The next Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force holds its next meeting Sept. 17.