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County to Boost Renewable Energy Goals With New ‘Amazon Arlington Solar Farm’

Arlington County is set to take a big step toward meeting some of its ambitious renewable energy goals.

The county, which is working to become carbon-neutral by 2050, is joining Amazon in purchasing power from a new solar array in rural Virginia. The County Board is set to vote tonight on purchasing 31.7 percent of the output of a planned, 120 megawatt facility — dubbed the “Amazon Arlington Solar Farm Virginia” — in Pittsylvania County.

“The proposed agreement would support construction of a significant solar electricity-generating installation on tree-less rural land,” says a county staff report. “Dominion Energy Virginia (DEV) acquired the project from Open Road Renewables, and the project has all necessary local permits… After construction is completed, the project is scheduled to produce electricity beginning in 2022.”

Amazon will purchase the rest of remainder of the solar farm’s output, helping it to meet its renewable energy goals for HQ2.

More from the county staff report:

Arlington will purchase 31.7 percent of the energy produced by the solar farm, or about 79 million kWh annually. In a separate transaction, Amazon is purchasing 68.3 percent of the energy produced. The broad scope of Arlington County government operations – buildings, streetlights, traffic signals, water pumping and wastewater treatment – consumes about 95 million kWh per year. Thus, the energy production purchased by the County from this project represents approximately 83 percent of the total amount of electricity used by County government each year.

The outcome of this agreement advances key Arlington County policy goals. On September 21, 2019, the Arlington County Board adopted a revised Community Energy Plan (CEP) as one of eleven elements of the Comprehensive Plan. Goal 3 of that Plan is to Increase Arlington’s Renewable Energy Resources, and Policy 3.1 states “Government operations will achieve 50% Renewable Electricity by 2022, and 100% Renewable Electricity by 2025.

This power purchase agreement would not only surpass the County government 2022 renewable electricity milestone, but also substantially satisfies the 2025 goal of 100 percent renewable electricity for County operations. Closing the remaining gap (less than 20 percent of our electricity use) will involve a combination of onsite solar installations, reduction in electricity needs through energy efficiency, and perhaps a supplemental agreement for additional offsite renewable energy.

There will be no upfront costs for the county and county staff expects the solar power to be no more expensive than the county’s existing electricity, thanks to some of the power generated by the solar farm being sold wholesale into the electrical grid. Staff says there’s a possibility, depending on market dynamics, that the solar power could be up to $100,000 more or less expensive annually.

“Staff confidence in the financial prudence of this agreement is based on due diligence performed in terms of understanding the wholesale power market in general (and in Virginia in particular); consideration of key factors affecting future wholesale power prices; and the use of an analysis of wholesale price projections for Virginia from a third-party expert,” the staff report says.

The Board is expected to approve the agreement with Dominion Energy at its Tuesday night meeting.

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