As students around the world—including those in school right outside of the nation’s capital—have marched with Greta Thunberg over climate change during the 2019-2020 school year, Fairfax County has been reaching environmental goals of its own.
On Dec. 10, 2019, Fairfax County Public Schools made the largest solar purchase power agreement (PPA) initiative by a municipality in Virginia to date when multiple partnerships were announced with solar power providers across the region. This deal would expand the use of solar energy to 87 public schools in Fairfax County, leading to significant environmental benefits, according to a recent press release.
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The contracts allow roof-mounted and canopy/carport-mounted solar installations at 113 sites across Fairfax County with the help of Sigora Solar/Standard Solar, BrightSuite (a subsidiary of Dominion Energy)/Sun Tribe Solar and Ipsun Solar/SunLight General Capital.
The contracts estimate 1.73 million megawatt hours could be provided to county facilities, equivalent to the amount of energy used by 213,680 homes in one year, and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, comparable to the emissions of 260,155 passenger vehicles over the course of one year.
“Fairfax County is excited to take a major step toward a more sustainable energy future,” said Bryan Hill, Fairfax County Executive in the recent Fairfax County press release.
According to superintendent Scott S. Brabrand, the school system is hoping the initiative will continue to cut down on energy costs across the board, saving up to an estimated $60 million that can be redistributed back to classroom investments.
“Our solar investment will also become an amazing learning lab for our students to reinforce the value and sustainability of solar energy,” said Brabrand in the school system’s announcement.
Sun Tribe Solar, one of the now-contracted providers to Fairfax County Public Schools, based out of Charlottesville, believes initiatives like this one also signify a growing demand for solar power in Northern Virginia.
“Nearly every week, we hear from a local government or school system looking for solar solutions, and Fairfax County’s ambitious plan here is a reminder that Virginia’s solar market is growing rapidly. We’re excited to work with the first-class team across the county to make a positive impact on every community,” said Taylor Brown, Chief Technical Officer for Sun Tribe Solar.
Participating energy companies have also made the PPAs rideable, meaning neighboring jurisdictions can also take advantage of the competitive rates and reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
For students, this might not seem like the sizable step they’re marching for, but it is a start for a new generation of students.
Back in 1977, Fairfax County Public Schools was one of the first systems in the country to install solar equipment and implement solar power in its schools when it opened Terraset Elementary School. Now, 87 more schools across the county could be seeing those same benefits for years to come.