Loudoun’s growth helps fuel its push to be more energy-efficient

As one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, Loudoun is a big consumer of energy to meet the needs of its droves of commuters, numerous high-power data centers and a rising number of homes and businesses. It is also a national leader when it comes to green energy initiatives, county officials say.

Loudoun County Supervisor Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac), an ardent green-energy supporter, notes that Loudoun is considered a model when it comes to energy-efficient initiatives. Loudoun’s energy strategy is used by the National Association of Counties as a planning tool for other jurisdictions .

“Loudoun has come a long, long way in the past three years,” McGimsey said. “We are now considered a national leader, of which I am very proud.”

Beyond helping the environment, energy-efficient projects simply make smart business sense, McGimsey said. She said that Loudoun’s energy manager, Najib Salehi, has helped the county save more than $1 million during his years of service.

The coming months will be busy for Loudoun’s energy team: The county is in the process of implementing many of the projects funded by a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, said Nicole Steele, Loudoun’s energy grant specialist.

The county also recently launched the 2011 Loudoun County Green Business Challenge, a contest that aims to highlight and encourage energy efficiency among businesses, in partnership with the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.

“We have a goal of having 100 business participate this year,” Steele said. Last year, 39 local business signed up, she added. “We’re hoping to increase that number significantly, and it looks promising that we can reach that goal.”

Beyond community outreach programs, team members have their hands full with energy-efficient development projects, she said.

“We are installing electric vehicle charging stations at a new park-and-ride facility in Hamilton, with a grand opening at the end of June. It’ll be the first electric vehicle charging station in the county,” Steele said. “And we’re getting ready to install solar panels on our new youth shelter, in May or June.”

The county is also completing energy retrofit construction on the homes of five residents who were awarded energy grants. That project should wrap up next month. The retrofitting of 42 streetlights in Purcellville to use energy-efficient LED lights, which county officials say reduce energy costs and carbon emissions for the town – was completed in March.

The energy-efficient development initiatives funded by the grant must be completed by June 2012 as the grant ends in fall 2012, Steele said. Despite the support of local officials across the country, Steele said, the county anticipates that the block grant program will not be renewed.

But Loudoun intends to continue its outreach and education programs for local businesses and residents well beyond 2012, Steele said.

“We’re working with consultants to figure out new funding sources, new partnership opportunities, ways to pull funds from existing county revenue sources,” she said. “Those programs will be sustained.”

McGimsey also said she thinks Loudoun will become increasingly involved in energy conservation efforts.

“We have a county energy strategy for the next 25 or 30 years, so we envision continuing to work on these issues and continuing to be a national leader,” she said.

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.
Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local