Arlington at work to reduce carbon emissions

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Arlington County has preliminary plans to slash its greenhouse gases by two-thirds over the next 40 years.

The proposed recommendations are part of a county task force's work toward a long-range Community Energy Plan to reduce energy use in county and commercial buildings and residences. The plan will include 40-year goals for legislative bodies, building efficiency and energy supplies, among other ideas.

"It is really hard for a community to get their hands around a 40-year plan," said Jay Fisette (D), who announced the task force and plan Jan. 1, the start of his term as County Board chairman. "It will be limited, and it will be updated as changes in technology occur."

Fisette, who noted the county's history for building on long-range plans, said, "Unless you have a plan, you don't have a road map."

The task force's report, which is due in April, will set the larger goals of saving, generating and distributing energy countywide through 2050. After that, specifics on how to implement that plan with strategies and policies will be developed, said Rich Dooley, the plan's project manager. A final layer eventually will be added to the county's comprehensive plan.

County leaders said home and commercial renovations should increase energy efficiency by 30 and 50 percent, respectively, beginning in 2015. Construction should be 30 percent more efficient than current standards.

"It is a goal, but it is not impossible at all," said John Morrill, the county's energy manager.

The central library is 40 percent more efficient than when it was built because it uses LED lights and has a new heating and cooling system, among other improvements, Morrill said.

The county plans to create an advisory group to offer educational and technical information.

The proposal also includes the concept of District Energy, an alternative system for heating and cooling, as well as electric generation, for a series of buildings or a neighborhood. A few buildings could be linked to start and buildings later added to the loop, Morrill said.

"Small, combined heat and power plants can be in the basement of commercial buildings," he said. "It is important to note that. . .we are not talking large, separate power plants but smaller, distributed equipment in buildings."

Another preliminary suggestion is to add up to 160 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power by 2050. Solar photovoltaic, or solar pv, converts solar energy into electricity.

"PV efficiency has been steadily improving, so the land area needed will presumably shrink and the vertical [sides] of large buildings can also be used," Morrill said.

The plan is based on 2007 data and efficiency standards. Although fuel prices are expected to go up and fuel efficiency in vehicles should improve, those details were not factored into equations used for the task force's work.

Neighborhoods will be encouraged to draft their own energy plan, much like the county's plan. The redevelopment of Crystal City will include an energy plan that could serve as a model for other neighborhoods, Dooley said.

"The recommendations are geared more toward the voluntary nature," said Dooley, who said the county will offer incentives and guidelines to help steer countywide energy efficiency. "This is a collaborative effort between public and private to move in the same direction."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company