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Fairfax County to unveil fire station solar panels, its first major installations

Fairfax County has harnessed the fiery power of the sun for two of its fire stations.

The Reston and Woodlawn fire stations are now home to rooftop solar photovoltaic arrays that will generate 17% of the electricity needed for the buildings to operate.

The facilities are the county’s first to get major rooftop solar installations, a milestone that local officials plan to celebrate with a ceremonial flipping of the power switch at the Woodlawn station this Wednesday (Sept. 27).

“Combined, the projects will generate 100 kW of power and provide about 17% of the electricity needed for the two stations,” John Silcox, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (OEEC), said. “The projects are being managed through an energy performance contract with engineering consulting firm CMTA that will save the county nearly $13,000 in the first year.”

The projects support the county’s operational energy strategy, which aims to ensure that 50% of electricity generated by county facilities comes from renewable energy sources like solar by 2040, among other goals.

The Reston and Woodlawn fire stations were both recently renovated. The approximately $15 million new Reston station at 1820 Wiehle Avenue reopened in the spring of 2022, while the renovation of the Woodlawn station at 8701 Lukens Lane was completed in 2021.

More solar installations will happen at other county facilities this year, Silcox said.

The county has been pursuing a number of solar projects under a power purchase agreement (PPA) initiative announced in 2019, but collapsed lease negotiations with one of the contracted vendors, supply chain issues and rising material costs created complications.

After initially pursuing the Reston Fire Station project and others through the PPA initiative, the county opted instead to hire an energy efficiency firm to install the solar panels in conjunction with other energy upgrades.

Similar projects are in the works at the Sully Community Center, the Spring Hill Rec Center in McLean, the Pender building and the upcoming Springfield commuter parking garage. Another 17 sites are in line for installations next year, county staff told the Board of Supervisors at an environmental committee meeting in July.

OEEC Division Manager for Innovation and Sustainability John Morrill previously told FFXnow that PPA contracts — where the panels are provided by a private company that covers all installation, managment and maintenance costs — are better suited to large-scale projects, like a 40-acre array planned at the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton.