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McLean’s Spring Hill Rec Center will get solar panels, energy upgrades

A man on a bench outside the Spring Hill Rec Center in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s efforts to become more energy efficient will get a power boost this week, as work begins on improvements at McLean’s Spring Hill Rec Center.

Set to break ground at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday), the project will add the recreation center at 1239 Spring Hill Road to a growing list of county facilities supported by solar panels. Other planned changes include pool dehumidification unit replacements, LED lighting upgrades, improved building automation systems and a new geothermal HVAC system.

“The project represents a significant step forward toward meeting the county’s goals for carbon neutrality in its facilities, fleet vehicles and operations, including 50% of county electricity from renewable sources by 2040,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said.

Adopted in July 2021, the county’s Operational Energy Strategy set 2040 as the target date for achieving carbon neutrality in its energy use — the point when it will remove as many greenhouse gas emissions as it releases.

In addition to getting half its electricity from renewable sources by 2040, the county hopes to reach carbon neutrality by cutting overall energy usage in half, transitioning to fully electric or non-carbon-emitting vehicle fleets by 2035 and producing zero waste by 2030, among other goals.

After running into some early roadblocks, particularly when it came to solar panels, the push to make the county’s facilities more energy efficient has picked up steam in recent months.

There are 22 solar projects in progress, including the Spring Hill one as well as five others that are under construction and expected to be completed this year, the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination reported to the Board of Supervisors at a July 18 committee meeting.

Later this afternoon, the board will hold a public hearing on whether to lease some upcoming facilities, including the new Franconia Governmental Center and planned Mason District Police Station addition, for solar photovoltaic (PV) array installations.

The county has also finished installing 96 electric vehicle charging stations at 11 facilities and has another five locations and 116 charging spaces on the way through 2024, though the Spring Hill Rec Center isn’t on that list.

The rec center will be the county’s fifth energy efficiency retrofit project, following completed upgrades at the Cub Run and South Run rec centers and the City of Fairfax Regional Library. Improvements to the Pender Building that houses the Department of Housing and Community Development are on track to finish this November.

According to the park authority, the Spring Hill Rec Center’s new solar PV array will produce 307 kilowatts of energy, providing 13% of the building’s annual electricity.

“That’s enough energy to power 33 homes, annually,” FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer said.

Coordinated by energy service contractor CMTA, the upgrades are collectively expected to reduce the facility’s electric consumption by 19% and gas consumption by 29% each year, the FCPA says.

The park authority anticipates finishing work on the project by late summer 2024.

“There may be occasional, temporary disruptions to Rec Center operations due to construction activities, but the Park Authority will work to minimize any impacts to our patrons,” Boxer said.

Offering classes, camps and one of the FCPA’s three licensed preschools, the Spring Hill Rec Center hosts a 15,000-square-foot fitness center, an indoor gym, a swimming pool and spa, and various outdoor facilities, including a playground and baseball and soccer fields.