The leadership of three Northern Virginia jurisdictions – the City of Falls Church, City of Fairfax and Town of Vienna – gathered over a meal Tuesday night in downtown Fairfax City to celebrate a successful annual campaign to advance the uses and benefits of solar power in the region. The gathering marked the culmination of a friendly competition between the jurisdictions to see who could get the greatest number of citizens to sign up for the Spring 2016 Solarize Northern Virginia effort.
The program, run by the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) in partnership with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the three participating jurisdictions, provided those who signed up with free solar assessments of their home locations, free home energy check-ups, and the ability to purchase solar photovoltaic systems at discounted prices with pre-negotiated contracts.
Overall, this year’s campaign produced 464 new solar assessments and 27 contracts for solar, with a total construction value of $710,092. The host of Tuesday’s gathering, the City of Fairfax, won the friendly competition with 217 sign-ups, to 129 for the City of Falls Church and 118 for the Town of Vienna.
The mayors of all three jurisdictions were present to congratulate each other, including Falls Church Mayor David Tarter, Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne and Vienna Mayor Laurie DiRocco.
While Fairfax City won, it was noted that sign-ups as a percentage of the total population of each jurisdiction meant the results were much closer. Fairfax has, according to 2013 numbers, 23,973 residents, Vienna 16,370 and Falls Church 13,508, so from the standpoint of a percentage of their population, had Falls Church signed up one more person, it would have won first place.
Last year, the first year of this campaign, Falls Church competed against Vienna alone, and came in second, hosting a buffet of food from Eden Center at the Council chambers of City Hall to culminate that program. Falls Church Council members present tonight included, in addition to Mayor Tarter, Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, Phil Duncan, Letty Hardi, Karen Oliver and Dan Sze. City Manager Wyatt Shields and City Clerk Celeste Heath, along with Environmental Services Council chair Tim Stevens were also present.
Solarize Northern Virginia was among the programs named in an energy alternatives accomplishment memo sent out from the White House this week, it was noted. All three participating mayors Tuesday told the News-Press that they welcomed the informal brainstorming that went with the event.
Fairfax City’s Silverthorne said his city is facing some of the issues of mixed use development that Falls Church has gone through. Fairfax planning director Brooke Hardin said that while he’s never personally met Falls Church Planning Director Jim Snyder, his reputation is well known and respected.
Vienna Mayor DiRocco, in her post for just over two years, sat with Falls Church Mayor Tarter through the entire event, sharing ideas on development and planning.
Stephanie Kupka, sustainability coordinator for the City of Fairfax, distributed the fact sheet with this year’s campaign results. It included data that for all campaigns to date, there have been 2,492 household signups, with 83 contracts for solar. The new solar units amounted to 638,759 pounds of coal not burned, 67,356 gallons of gasoline not consumed and 599 metric tons of CO2 not emitted, according to the fact sheet, while energy checkups accounted for 338,102 pounds of coal not burned, 35,652 gallons of gasoline not consumed, and 317 metric tons of CO2 not emitted.
Tuesday night’s event culminated with dessert, coffee and tea at the new Old Town Square in downtown City of Fairfax, a few steps away from the host restaurant, 21 Great American Bistro.