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Solar Panel Installation at Arlington Central Library

by ARLnow.com June 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm 3,907 38 Comments

Workers were busy installing 250 solar panels on the roof of Arlington Central Library today.

The 60 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system will save the library $14,000 in peak electricity costs every year and will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 100,000 pounds annually, officials say.

“As part of Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions), the new solar photovoltaic system will contribute to Arlington’s goal to reduce the County government greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2012,” the county said in a press release. “Central Library is an ideal facility for a solar photovoltaic system, due to its large, flat roof that can easily collect sunlight, coupled with previous AIRE energy efficiency improvements.”

The project was funded entirely by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy. The system will take about two months to install, weather-permitting.

  • Lou

    What happens when the County approves an 18 story condo tower on the site south of the Library?

    • charlie

      northside of Fairfax Drive will get no more than 10-12 stories. probably not a long enough shadow. very good question — maybe that is why they are going on the northern side.

      • BerryBerryCold

        Don’t want to bother all the single family homes around that plot…o wait

  • Burger

    Anyone know what the cost was to install those panels.

    I’m always amused by people that say “with the tax deductions” the solar panels only cost me $20,000 and will save me $500/yr in energy cost. I always hate to point it out that in 40 years they will have recooped their investment.

    • esmith69

      There is also something to be said about putting our money into a technology that a) doesn’t pollute, and b) isn’t depending on the whims of the oil cartels.

      • John Fontain

        Go ahead, tell us what is to be said.

        • Loocy

          It’s not that easy to monetize. Public costs vs. private costs. There are unaccounted-for public costs in using electricity, it’s not just the payment to the electric company. There is definitely some value in avoiding carbon dioxide emissions, dependence on foreign oil, and depletion of the fuel supply, we just don’t have a way to account for that.

      • BerryBerryCold

        I am pretty certain the process of mining the materials needed to make the PV panels as well as the batteries is extremely dirty and pollutes plenty.

      • Burger

        You need to look up solar panels. They most definitely pollute and generally use a ton of water.

        But, I didn’t really say that. I merely asked why spend 20,000 to save $500. It doesn’t make sense on a cost-benefit analysis. Maybe the technology gets cheaper and you can re-coop the costs in a shorter timeframe – more like 5 years is optimum.

    • OPEC

      Recooped? Here we go with the chicken discussion again.

      • Tre


  • esmith69

    I’d imagine that might have the potential to affect the efficiency of the panels, at least for a portion of the day. Hopefully they would consider this during the approval process for any building planned to be built next to it.

    In any case, I’m glad to see this type of technology being installed at more and more government buildings. We need more public awareness and interest in conflict-free, non-polluting energy.such as this.

    • John Fontain

      Are you suggesting that another party’s property rights should be affected by one’s desire to get full sun exposure?

      • doodly

        Right or wrong, this kind of thing happens all the time, John.

        • Lou

          The site has a FAR that allows anyone to build up to that limit by-right. The County could do nothing to stop them.

          • BerryBerryCold

            Exactly. If its by-right they can tell the county to bug off.

  • Henry

    What a nice scam by Arlington–federal government pays for the solar panels, we save $14,000 a year! Good deal.

    • Mike

      Major correction: WE pay for the solar panels, we save $14,000 a year. Unless you aren’t a federal taxpayer. Part of our budget problems (and I’m using the US when I mean “our”) is that localities look at federal bucks as coming from “them” and going to “us”.

      A quick search indicates a cost of $300K – $400K for a 60 kw system. Costs recouped in only twenty-some years.

      • johnny b

        does that include the battery maintenance and periodic replacements? what about the extra insurance costs in case of hydrogen gas build up and resulting explosion when said maintenance is not performed properly? how close will children be to the battery room? sure hope due diligence was done prior to doing this project.

        • Toucan Sam

          As a matter of fact, small children will be FED to the batteries to avoid hydrogen buildup.

          • FrenchyB


  • ArlForester

    I am all for any kind of transition to alternative energy sources but the costs almost never make it financially sound. I also wonder how much work needs to be done when there is an issue on that roof. Those tar and rock roofs aren’t forever.

    • esmith69

      The point I’m trying to make is that it’s always going to cost more. Progress always has a cost. Whether that cost is the loss of a bunch of mining jobs in West Virginia or a slight increase in electricity rates for everyone, it’s a cost that we’re going to need to be willing to pay eventually. The sooner we can swallow that pill and switch to clean energy, the better.

      • Burger

        sorry, I see no reason to make those extra payments for inefficient uses that have a long time horizon until they work out.

        If you want to, be my guest, but I’ll likely be dead, and I am in my 30;s before that happens.

      • Burger

        Nor, do I support the government getting involved in promoting winners and losers. They can certainly make over-arching subsidies or incentives but picking and choosing which technology works over another is not a government strong suit.

    • BerryBerryCold

      Penny wise, pound foolish (now $, soon to be yuan.)

  • Arlington, Northside

    This reminds me of Nancy Pelosi’s $800K study that found a $2million lighting system should be installed to light the Capitol Dome in order to cut a $15K electric bill in half….

    • doodly

      I doubt the veracity of this post. It sounds like just another rightwing Internet urban myth.

      • Andrew

        Cost of the study was $691,000. Cost of project is over $1M.


        Couldn’t find much regarding savings, but estimates were that it would take 50 years to recoup costs.

        • doodly

          So someone go find some actual reliable savings estimate, not something Boehner pulled out of his ass. (Or did he say “not intended to be a factual statement” afterward?)

  • Heaven

    This is great to see.

  • steve

    what happens when it hails?

  • doodly squat

    Just because you can prove it doesn’t mean that it’s true in my mind.

    • doodly

      I said “I doubt” not “it’s not true.” I am careful about what I post, try learning to read it.

      • doodly squat

        Not that you need help looking foolish, but all you really need is a calculator:
        The current system (38 bulbs @ 1kW each) * $0.13 per kWH (avg DC area energy cost from bls.gov = $18,031 per year based on having the lights on for 10 hours per day.
        The BEST that the replacement could supposedly do (128 bulbs @ .035kW each) * $0.13 = $2,135. To reach equivalent savings of the $1M cost, you would have to realize that savings for 62.9 years
        The WORST that the replacement could supposedly do (128 bulbs @.21kW each) * $0.13 = $12,764. To reach equivalent savings, you would have to realize that savings for 189.9 years.
        And that is assuming that each fixture only holds one bulb.
        Do the math yourself – it’s not that hard, but even for the best case, it is worse than what “Boehner pulled out of his ass”

  • EPinBC

    Mixed feeling about this project. The going rate for solar panels is about $3/watt which means the cost was probably $150,000 to $250,000. I have to think that that much money could have had a greater impact on the county’s fuel bill if spent another way though I realize the grant was probably specific to a project like this one. I like the use of solar panels that reduce installation costs, like the school crossing signs, but don’t think this particular installation is cost-effective. This area isn’t that great for the bulk generation of electricity from solar panels. It’s a 60kw installation but with clouds and the installation angle of the panels it will rarely produce that much energy.

  • MattB

    Just curious but what happens when we get a hail storm? Seems to me that smaller windmills might have been a better choice.


  • Mickey

    When government is forced to run like a business, they will stop pixxing away taxpayers money. When deals like this are linked to the salary of the boobs that come up with these ideas, it will stop. It is the old story…..”someone else’s money….). What a pile of smoldering dog excrement.


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