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by Chris Teale December 6, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Arlington Public Schools plans to add solar panels to five school buildings, including the soon-to-be-built Alice West Fleet Elementary School.

APS issued a Request for Proposals on December 1, calling for companies to bid to install solar panels at Kenmore and Thomas Jefferson Middle Schools, Tuckahoe and Fleet Elementary Schools and Washington-Lee High School.

Fleet Elementary School will be built on the site of Thomas Jefferson, and is projected to be open in September 2019.

In the call for proposals, APS said it is seeking to be increasingly environmentally friendly in construction projects and its existing buildings, and hopes the panels will help it keep up with its schools’ energy demands.

“APS stresses energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in the design of all construction and maintenance projects,” it reads. “APS is aware of the energy and environmental advantages of solar power and has multiple buildings used as schools for all age groups and administrative offices which appear to have design characteristics which make them appropriate for the installation of [solar panels] which will produce electric power to meet, or contribute to meeting, the power needs of APS.”

The successful bidder would install the solar panels, and operate and maintain them under a lease agreement with APS for a minimum of 15 years. APS said the winning company would also be responsible for all installation and maintenance costs, but would pay rent of $1 a year for the panels.

Proposals are due on March 19, 2018. The RFP comes months after Kenmore was one of six sites in Virginia selected to have a solar panel installed on its roof as part of the Solar for Students program, which encourages hands-on learning about clean energy.

by Chris Teale November 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Drivers of electric cars now have one less place to charge their vehicles in Arlington County.

A tipster reported the car charging station in the parking lot of the former Walgreens Pharmacy at 2825 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon was removed last week.

At the time it was first and only station in the county from EVgo, which owned the ports and installed them in 2013. Anyone interested in using them could buy a monthly subscription.

Representatives with EVgo did not respond to requests for further comment, but on its website, the Clarendon charging location has been removed. Other EVgo charging stations remain at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall.

Other charging stations from other companies are available in other neighborhoods, including Ballston, Rosslyn, Crystal City, Pentagon City and Shirlington.

by Chris Teale November 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Local all-hybrid taxi service Envirocab is no more.

A tipster reported calling the Columbia Pike-based company last week, but getting a message on the phone saying they were no longer in service.

Calls to the company this week yielded the same result, while its website is “Temporarily out of service.”

“We are sorry to inform you that this service is no longer in operation. Thank you,” the message said. Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said Envirocab closed on November 1.

The 50-cab service was sold in 2013 to transportation conglomerate Veolia Transportation, which operates more than 2,400 taxicabs around the country. It began in 2008, and back then was the first all-hybrid fleet in the country. Since then, hybrid cabs have become more commonplace among local taxi fleets.

A Yelp review of Envirocab posted last month complained that the “service continues to deteriorate” and that “the last two times I attempted to use Envirocab, they failed to show up.”

by Chris Teale September 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Arlington County residents can register now to receive a free tree for their homes.

One tree is available per home in the county’s annual free tree distribution. Anyone who lives in a multi-family property like an apartment building, however, must contact TreeStewards.org for assistance in getting more trees.

“The trees being distributed are generally termed ‘whips’ in the nursery trade and are in two-gallon containers and ranging 2-4 feet in size,” organizers wrote. “You should carefully consider the spot you intend to plant your tree.”

The distribution will take place next month in two places:

  • Saturday, October 14, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Arlington County nursery (4240 S. Four Mile Run Drive)
  • Wednesday, October 18, 5-8 p.m. at the Quincy Park parking lot (1021 N. Quincy Street)

Photo via Arlington County

by Chris Teale September 6, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

A group of local residents have launched a petition against an Arlington County plan to remove more than 80 trees at the Donaldson Run Nature Area.

The nature area, part of Donaldson Run Park at 4020 30th Street N. between Military Road and N. Upton Street, is set to have a section of its stream restored early next year.

The project on Tributary B is designed to help prevent erosion by creating a new natural stream and re-connecting it with the flood plain. Opponents said the project would remove 81 trees, endanger another 52 and remove vegetation along 1,400 feet of Donaldson Run. Work to restore the stream’s Tributary A was completed in 2006.

But a group of residents have launched an online campaign against what it described as the “rapid loss of trees on public and private lands” and urged the county to reconsider.

“The Donaldson Run Tributary B [stream] restoration project, costing taxpayers over $1 million, sacrifices broad local natural environmental benefits for a narrow distant storm water purpose,” the petition reads. “This project must be put on hold until… comprehensive technical and cost/benefit reviews can be completed that include better alternatives that use the money most effectively to meet all the community’s goals.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had received 14 signatures.

Opponents of the project will host an event on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the nature area to hand out free saplings to “expand our urban forest.”

Photo No. 4 via petition, photo No. 5 via Google Maps.

by Chris Teale August 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Residents can have their food waste composted by the county as part of a pilot program launched earlier this month.

From 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday, any county resident can take their food scraps to the Department of Environmental Services’ Solid Waste Bureau at 4300 29th Street S. in Shirlington, near the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s headquarters.

There, the scraps are being collected in two green carts at the bottom of the scale house, at the top of the Trades Center hill. Staff will be on hand to assist with disposal.

Per a county fact sheet on the program, the following food scraps are being accepted:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • food soiled paper (paper towels, napkins and paper plates)
  • coffee grounds, filters and tea bags
  • breads, grains and pasta
  • meat and seafood (including bones)
  • plate scrapings

Collected scraps are processed at the county’s Earth Products Recycling Yard using a composter. The compost that is produced will then be given to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation to use in landscaping projects and to amend topsoil in public spaces.

DES staff said they launched the pilot program to “address increasing interest from residents to manage food disposal through a more environmentally conscious process.”

by Chris Teale July 27, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

A local co-op formed earlier this year to drive down the cost of home solar installation selected two providers to install the panels.

The 83-member group chose Ashburn-based Independent Solar Solutions and Sigora Solar of Charlottesville earlier this month from 10 firms after an open and competitive bidding process.

A spokesman for the co-op said the two firms were selected because of their competitive pricing, quality components and warranties available.

According to Solar Power Rocks, a firm that provides guidance on solar power for all 50 states and D.C., installing a 5-kW solar panel system on a house in Virginia can cost homeowners just over $18,000. Over the course of 25 years, the firm estimates it will have produced $16,000 in income from energy savings. Co-op members can save up to 20 percent on installation costs as they buy as a group in bulk.

The chosen installers will now develop personalized proposals for each co-op member, who will then review that proposal and decide if the panels are suitable for them. Being a co-op member does not mean a commitment to buying panels. New members are being accepted until October 1 from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County.

“We’re are excited to be working with Greater Arlington residents to help them go solar at a great price” Niko Eckart, owner of Independent Solar Solutions, said in a statement.

“We’re incredibly honored to be part of this co-op and are excited to see the solar momentum build in Northern Virginia,” Jonathan Gellings, a solar analyst at Sigora Solar, added.

The group is partnered with Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods, the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment to help educate and recruit members about going solar. Co-op members can save up to 20 percent off the cost of going solar by doing so in a group.

More than 80 people have already gone solar in similar schemes, and the current cohort said the process of finding providers was helped by working as a group.

“As someone who has considered installing [solar panels] several times over the past few years, I can say with certitude that working through the co-op was far easier than interviewing installers on my own,” said co-op member Jessica Olson in a statement. “The co-op is a great way to make an informed decision on a significant investment. We’re really excited to work with our installer and see how much I can save with my system.”

by Katherine Berko June 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

Kenmore Middle School was one of six sites in Virginia selected to have a solar panel installed on its roof as part of the Solar for Students program, which encourages hands-on learning about clean energy.

A 1.2 kilowatt panel will be installed on the school’s roof to convert sunlight into electricity, with real-time data displays to help classroom learning. It is estimated the panel will generate enough electricity to power 18 desktop computers, or 15 42-inch LED TVs.

In addition to the panel, the program comes with technical support, training for teachers and educational materials that will enable students to monitor, track and learn about solar power production.

In June 2015, Dominion Energy partnered with the nonprofit National Energy Education Development Project to launch the program. The program is for Virginia students, teachers and communities in areas served by Dominion, and gives them hands-on experience with solar power.

Kenmore will share the $150,000 solar panel grant with schools across Virginia and the Children’s Museum in Richmond, having been selected from 35 applicants statewide. Jeff Politzer, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) teacher at Kenmore, helped apply for the grant.

“We started the process months ago and then we had to meet with people form Arlington County,” he said. “We did a site supervise, we did a walk through. We wanted to see what location would be best.”

Around 750 students gathered in the school’s auditorium today to learn about their gift.

Scott Reamy, external affairs manager at Dominion Energy, built up to the announcement by having the students guess what the surprise was.

“I want to see if you all can figure it out,” he said. “It was created in 1958. It’s been to space and back.”

“Solar panels!” shouted a student in the back of the room.

The solar panel has not yet been installed at the school. At the event, officials had no further information on when the school can expect its new panel to be added.

by Chris Teale June 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington County just announced that it has joined other counties, cities, businesses and colleges in signing an open letter pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

President Trump announced last week he will withdraw the United States from the pact to help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers. The decision brought swift condemnation from local elected officials.

County leaders joined on Monday (June 5) an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement entitled, “We Are Still In.” The letter promises that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will continue, regardless of federal policy.

“Arlington stands with communities across our nation and around the globe who recognize that climate change is real and that we must, both on the local and on the global level, meet its adverse effects with strong, effective action,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “Just as we joined the Compact of Mayors in 2015 and agreed to set goals for reductions in greenhouse gases, so do we join the effort today of local communities that are pledging to uphold the Paris Agreement, even if the federal government does not.”

The District of Columbia has also signed on to the pact and Virginia joined a similar state effort this week.

In light of President Trump’s decision, the County Board will consider a resolution at its June 17 meeting reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change.

In a press release, the county touted its efforts already in the fight against climate change:

Arlington County adopted a forward-thinking Community Energy Plan (CEP) in June 2013, as an element of our Comprehensive Plan. The award-winning plan is a long-term vision for transforming how Arlington generates, uses and distributes energy. Its goal-setting and methods of achievement are consistent with the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda and the Paris Accord. Arlington’s CEP aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050, and greenhouse gas emissions already have fallen 18 percent in Arlington between 2007 and 2015.

In 2015, Arlington signed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Energy and Climate, sponsored by the Compact of Mayors – open to any city or town in the world willing to meet a series of requirements culminating in the creation of a full climate action and adaptation plan.

In 2012, Arlington exceeded our goal of reducing government-wide energy usage by 10 percent, using the year 2000 as a baseline. Currently, we’re competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce municipal building energy usage by 20 percent by 2020.

Our Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) helps our community make smart decisions about energy and supports individual actions that improve and sustain Arlington’s quality of life. County government buys more than 30 percent of its electricity as certified green power and buys carbon offsets against 100 percent of its natural gas use. Arlington is home to Discovery Elementary, the largest “net zero energy” elementary school east of the Mississippi River.

At its meeting in June, the County Board will consider a resolution reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change and to the goals of our Community Energy Plan.

Arlington will continue to work to make our County more prosperous, healthful, safe and secure through its efforts to rethink energy and protect the environment.

For more information about Arlington’s environmental initiatives and efforts to reduce energy usage and energy costs, visit the County website.

by Chris Teale May 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

The Arlington County Board will consider a plan to make a stretch of Williamsburg Blvd a so-called “Green Street” at its meeting Saturday.

The section of Williamsburg Blvd, between 33rd Road N. and 35th Street N., would have new trees added as well as two 1,000-square-foot rain gardens in the median. The project is intended to improve local water quality and address permit requirements as part of the county’s Green Streets project for stormwater management.

County staff estimated that installing the trees and rain gardens will treat runoff from 2.2 acres of impervious surfaces that do not allow rainwater to soak in. That water then runs off into the Little Pimmit Run watershed, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay, with Arlington under instructions along with other jurisdictions to reduce pollution in the bay.

If the County Board approves the plan, a contract worth an initial $1.23 million would be awarded, with $246,000 in contingency.

County staff recommends approval of the project, which is being coordinated with the second phase of improvements to Old Dominion Drive. Construction is set to start in June or July.

by Chris Teale May 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

A new local co-op has been formed to drive down the cost of home solar installation.

The Greater Arlington Solar Co-op is holding two free information sessions this week, in Arlington and Alexandria, to educate the public about solar and the benefits of joining their group. Co-op members can save up to 20 percent off the cost of going solar by doing so in a group.

The group is partnered with Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods, the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment to help educate and recruit members.

“We’re forming this co-op to make saving money with solar energy as simple as possible,” said Chris Somers, community energy specialist at AIRE, in a statement. “Working with the group helps members learn about the technology so they feel confident in their decision to go solar.”

Joining the group is not a commitment to purchase solar panels. Once the group is large enough, it will solicit bids from local installers and select the best proposal for the group. The chosen installer will then develop personalized proposals for each co-op member, who review the plan.

The information sessions are taking place Wednesday at the Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Blvd Suite 210) and Thursday at The Pavilion at Mark Center (5708 Merton Court) in Alexandria, both starting at 7 p.m.

by Adrian Cruz June 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm 0

sierraclubThe Sierra Club wants Arlington County to run completely on clean and renewable energy by 2035.

The organization announced today that it is launching its Ready for 100 energy awareness campaign in Arlington and Alexandria. Fifteen U.S. cities including San Diego have already committed to 100 percent clean energy and Arlington has already vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

“We strongly support a goal of 100% clean energy,” said Elenor Hodges, Executive Director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, in a press release. “Arlington County has already set a high bar for Virginia, but we can do even better. I think this is an effort many residents will get behind.”

The price of clean energy has dropped significantly over the past few years, with solar energy costs alone dropping by 80 percent, according to the Sierra Club. The solar industry has expanded as well, with over 200,000 people working with solar energy, nearly twice as many as the coal mining industry.

“By transitioning to 100 percent clean energy, our city could prevent thousands of asthma attacks and dozens of premature deaths every year,” said Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, an Alexandria-based pediatrician. “This would be a big step in the right direction toward allowing our kids to breathe easier.”

According to a study by scientists from Stanford, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy would save the average American family $260 per year in energy costs and an additional $1,500 in health care costs.

The Sierra Club is rallying local residents — including students — to urge local officials “to boost the local economy and save families money by leading the way to 100 percent clean energy.” From the press release:

The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fueled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future. The stay issued by the Supreme Court on the Clean Power Plan cannot reverse that trend. Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy.

“Our current dependence on fossil fuels means that my generation will be dealing with the impact of climate change for our entire lives,” said Helene Turvene a junior at Washington-Lee High School. “A commitment now to 100% renewable energy not only will help to begin reversing those impacts, but it will position our community for a more sustainable future. Students want to know that local leaders are acting with us, and future generations, in mind.”

Photo courtesy Sierra Club

by ARLnow.com February 5, 2016 at 11:05 am 0

Students going back to school (file photo)Arlington Public Schools will soon no longer be sending paper flyers home in students’ backpacks.

The so-called backpack mail for parents of elementary and middle school students is being phased out in favor of an electronic system, following a successful pilot program, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

The system, called Peachjar, is specifically designed for schools. It sends electronic flyers to parents’ email inboxes, thus cutting costs and staff time that would otherwise be spent making paper copies and distributing them.

The new system is being rolled out to all elementary and middle schools “over the next few weeks,” Bellavia said.

Families can request that they keep receiving paper copies and paper flyers will be posted on school bulletin boards. Otherwise, there are a number of options for electronic delivery.

“Parents can access the flyers via weekly email notifications they receive, by checking the school’s website, or accessing flyers on the APS Mobile App,” said Bellavia. “Families like the Peachjar option because electronic copies stay online for at least 30 days, and are linked directly to the organization’s website where they can access more information or directly sign up for programs electronically, which is more convenient than keeping track of paper copies and following up on advertised services.”

The pilot program took place at six elementary schools and one middle school last fall and of the families surveyed about it, 86 percent said they wanted to keep the new system instead of returning to backpack mail, according to APS. Nonprofit organizations and PTAs also participate in backpack mail and APS received an enthusiastic response from them.

“More than 100 nonprofit organizations who participate in our backpack mail program were surveyed, and only one respondent indicated a desire to return to backpack mail,” said Bellavia. “APS, schools and PTAs can use the service for free, and nonprofit organizations pay a nominal fee that is less costly than making copies, to distribute their flyers electronically to families. Our PTAs are excited about the service because they can use it for free to distribute their flyers, saving time and the expense of printing paper copies.”

“This program supports the APS commitment to its core value of sustainability, and many families, community members and staff have urged APS to find a paperless (environmentally friendly) alternative to backpack mail,” Bellavia noted.

High schools do not have backpack mail and thus are not slated to get the new system. After the jump, a video about Peachjar.

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by ARLnow.com November 16, 2015 at 11:35 am 0

Yard waste (photo via Arlington County)

Year-round yard waste collection is coming to Arlington

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a measure that will provide curbside collection of yard waste year round for Arlington households.

The new service is expected to divert up to 9,000 tons of compostable materials from trash collection and raise the county’s recycling rate, which is already the highest in the region.

While Arlington’s solid waste rate remains the lowest in the region, the yard waste collection will ultimately cost homeowners an extra $47 per year.

Critics have said that the extra cost will hurt already-burdened Arlington homeowners. Critics also say that the extra trucks required to haul the yard waste may produce more greenhouse gasses than are saved by not sending the yard waste with other trash to a waste-to-energy plant, as is current practice.

The county’s press release about year-round yard waste collection, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com November 6, 2015 at 2:55 pm 0

Blue catfish (Photo by Flickr user rbairdpccam, via Chesapeake Bay Program)Want to eat some locally-caught fish, help feed the hungry and do your part to eliminate an invasive species?

If so, then the Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse has just the fleshy bottom-feeder for you, starting tomorrow.

The weekly farmers market, which runs on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot at the intersection of N. Courthouse Road and 14th Street N., is adding blue catfish to its offerings.

In a press release, farmers market operator Community Foodworks says blue catfish tastes “delicious.” Knowing that eating it will help rid the Chesapeake Bay of an invasive pest will make it taste even better. Plus, for every pound of blue catfish bought at the farmers market, a portion will be donated to local anti-hunger groups.

The Arlington Farmers Market, located at Courthouse Plaza for over 35 years, is joining forces with Charlottesville-based fisherman Zac Culbertson, of Cold Country Salmon, and Maryland’s Wide Net Project to introduce residents to the joys of eating wild blue catfish as the best way to support local fishermen, eliminate invasive species and combat hunger.

Introduced to certain Virginia tributaries in the 1970s for recreational fishing, the blue catfish (ictalurus furcatus), North America’s largest, now outnumbers other fish 3-to-1 in bay tributaries. The Wide Net Project was founded to turn the plentiful, delicious fish into an affordable source of protein for both anti-hunger relief and paying customers. For every pound of catfish Arlington Farmers Market customers purchase, WNP will donate one portion to local anti-hunger organizations such as Miriam’s Kitchen and Martha’s Table.

As part of its mission to support regional food producers, Arlington Farmers Market recruited Culbertson, who runs a small acreage farm and travels to Bristol Bay, Alaska every summer to net salmon from a biologist-managed, sustainable fishery on the Ugashik River. Culbertson returns his “Beyond Sushi Grade” salmon, which is frozen immediately after catch, to Virginia where he produces salmon spread, salmon cakes, salmon animal treats, spices, and glazes.

Beginning November 7 at Arlington Farmers Market, Culbertson will sell Wide Net Project blue catfish, his wild salmon and salmon products and Virginia oysters from Seaford Oyster Company in Seaford, VA.

Photo by Flickr user rbairdpccam, via Chesapeake Bay Program

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