Solar panels activated atop Spring Hill Rec Center as energy project nears finish

The Spring Hill Rec Center now has an active rooftop solar panel array (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

The Spring Hill Rec Center in McLean is now being partly powered by the sun.

The Fairfax County Park Authority announced today (Thursday) that it has turned on a new, 307-kilowatt solar panel array on the roofs of the recreation center’s gym and indoor swimming pool at 1239 Spring Hill Road.

The largest array installed on a park authority facility to date, the solar panels will generate enough energy annually to power 33 homes and reduce the rec center’s electricity needs by 13%, according to the press release.

“Turning the switch at this solar project represents another step in our journey away from fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable future,” John Morrill, director of Fairfax County’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, said. “Not only will this solar array save money in electricity costs over time, it confirms the county’s commitment to meeting the goals in our Operational Energy Strategy.”

Adopted by the Board of Supervisors in July 2021, the county’s Operational Energy Strategy laid out a plan for achieving carbon neutrality — when it absorbs or removes the same amount of carbon emissions as it releases — by 2040. By that year, the county aims to generate 50% of its electricity with renewable sources, among other goals.

The solar panel launch represents a key step forward in a larger push by the FCPA to make the Spring Hill Rec Center more energy efficient. Under construction since July 2023, the project will also install a geothermal HVAC system, replace the pool’s dehumidification units, add LED lights and improve the building’s automation system.

Work on all of the improvements is expected to wrap up this summer.

“We decided, when it was time to make improvements to the rec center, that we would be intentional about installing fixtures and infrastructure that would minimize the impact on our environment, enhance user experience, and save money in the long run,” FCPA Director Jai Cole said. “This is doable, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Other park authority facilities that have undergone similar retrofits include the Cub Run and South Run rec centers.

The county unveiled its first major solar photovoltaic arrays on the Reston and Woodlawn fire stations last September and anticipates completing 12 installations this year in addition to the Spring Hill project.