- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Fairfax County has contracted with energy providers to install solar panels on schools and other government properties at no cost to taxpayers — a move officials say will save $60 million in electric costs over 25 years.

“Fairfax County is excited to take a major step toward a more sustainable energy future,” County Executive Bryan Hill said in a press release. “Implementing on-site solar will hopefully lower our electricity costs as we support our Board of Supervisors adopted priorities. Fairfax County is striving to promote and encourage the use of renewable energy as we reduce our carbon footprint.”

Officials announced Tuesday that they had entered into power purchasing agreements (PPA) with three local solar panel providers who will be responsible for installing and maintaining the panels on more than 100 parking garages, school buildings and government properties.

Kambiz Agazi, director of the county’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, said the contracts are a “no brainer” because the county is not responsible financially for the panels and has to pay the providers only for the electricity used, which will be less costly than rates offered by the current provider, Dominion Energy.

For example, the current average rate is $.084 per kilowatt/hour for county government buildings, $.099 per kilowatt/hour for schools its, and $0.074 per kilowatt/hour for park facilities.

Under the solar panel agreement, the rates are fixed at $0.069 per kilowatt/hour for rooftop installations and $.11 per kilowatt/hour for parking structures.

Mr. Agazi said it’s an even better deal when you consider that the electric company raises its rates by about 2% every year.

The government has five years, with the option to extend another five years, to decide on which facilities to install the solar panels.

Neighboring jurisdictions have the same amount of time to connect with the providers to install panels for the same price.

The panels are contracted to be in place for 25 years, which is about the length of their lifespan. At that point, the providers are in charge of removing and recycling them.

Mr. Agazi said it won’t be for another six months until the county starts to see panels installed and several years before all 100-plus sites get their panels.

The energy produced from panels won’t satisfy 100% of the county’s electricity needs, so officials will maintain the traditional electricity contract to provide backup power for when the solar panels aren’t producing enough and for buildings that can’t have panels attached because of their structure.

Three companies — Sigora Solar/Standard Solar, BrightSuite (a subsidiary of Dominion Energy)/Sun Tribe Solar, and Ipsun Solar/SunLight General Capital — submitted winning bids for the county government contract.

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