ARLnow’s Eighth Birthday — Today is the eighth anniversary of the founding of ARLnow.com. Here is our first post ever.
Sexual Harassment FOIA Folo — In a follow-up to our FOIA request seeking any records of sexual harassment or assault allegations against senior Arlington officials since 2000 — no such records were found — we asked about any such cases, against any county employee, that were handled by the County Attorney’s office over the past decade. The response from the county’s FOIA officer: “There are no records responsive to your request because no such cases exist.” The last publicly reported case was that against an Arlington police officer in 2007.
Vihstadt Launches Re-election Bid — Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt made it official last night: he is running for re-election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has picked up at least one Democratic challenger so far. However, he again has the backing of a number of prominent Democrats, including fellow Board member Libby Garvey, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Treasurer Carla de la Pava. [InsideNova]
County Accepts Millions in Grant Funds — “The Arlington County Board today accepted $17.85 million in grant funding from three transportation entities that will be used for transit, bridge renovation and transportation capital projects in the County.” Among the projects is a new west entrance for the Ballston Metro station. [Arlington County]
County Board Accepts Immigration Donation — “The Arlington County Board today accepted a resident’s anonymous donation for a Citizenship Scholarship to help Arlingtonians pay the $725 federal application fee charged to those seeking to become U.S. citizens.” [Arlington County]
Man Convicted of 7-Eleven Robberies — A man arrested last year for a string of robberies has been convicted by a federal jury of three armed robberies and an armed carjacking. Among the crimes were two armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores in Arlington. [Alexandria News]
Arlington Lauded for Solar Program — The U.S. Department of Energy has named Arlington County a “SolSmart” community “for making it faster, easier and more affordable for Arlington homes and businesses to go solar.” [Twitter, Arlington County]
Flickr photo by John Sonderman
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.
A local co-op formed earlier this year to drive down the cost of home solar installation selected two providers to install the panels.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
McAuliffe Visits New District Brewing — Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) made a “quick stop” at New District Brewing near Shirlington yesterday, touring the brewery and posing for photos. [Twitter, Twitter]
Caps Continue Playoff Fan Activities — For their Round 2 playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals are continuing a series of fan activities, including free yoga classes and viewings of team practices, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. [Washington Capitals]
County Gets Planning Award — Arlington County is one of a dozen recipients of the American Planning Association’s Gold 2017 National Planning Achievement Award. “County government and the community have together built Arlington into one of the nation’s best places to live, work or play,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. [Arlington County]
APS Pushes Solar Power — “Clearing a legal hurdle that may affect other Virginia school systems, Arlington Public Schools has created a new type of purchasing authority so it may enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) for solar power.” [Blue Virginia]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
New LED Crossing Guard Signs — VDOT is giving Arlington County a $880 grant that will allow it to purchase four new LED-illuminated paddle signs for crossing guards. The new signs will show “‘slow’ on one side and ‘stop’ on the other… when illuminated, they are visible up to one mile away.” The County Board is expected to accept the grant at its Saturday meeting. [Arlington County]
County Board to Make Car-Sharing Permanent — On Saturday the Arlington County Board is expected to vote to make car-sharing systems permanent in county code. Earlier this year the Board authorized trips between Arlington and D.C. for car-share provider Car2Go. The move has significantly boosted Car2Go’s usage in Arlington. [UrbanTurf]
Discovery Elementary’s Net Zero Goal — Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy recently toured Arlington’s new Discovery Elementary school. The school was built to be a Net Zero Energy building, meaning that it produces more energy than it uses. The school’s solar panel array cost $1.5 million but is expected to pay for itself in about 10 years. [WJLA]
Man Sentenced for Sneaking Into U.S., Again — A Guatemalan man who has a colorful history of sneaking into the U.S., being deported, and trying to come back again, has been sentenced to jail time. Juan Abel Belteton-Barrios, 46, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release. [Patch]
Why East Falls Church? — GGW has a primer on his history and geography of the various Northern Virginia locales with “Falls Church” in the name or postal address, including Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood. [Greater Greater Washington]
This is the first post in a two-part series. The second post will focus on the Potomac Solar Co-op, currently open for Arlington residents interested in purchasing solar at a discount rate. For now, past is prologue.
Solar has been the energy source of the future for decades. Since at least the 1990s, we’ve all been waiting for solar panels to make the one last technological breakthrough that makes it cost-competitive. It’s always been a few years away.
Wait no longer, folks. Solar is here.
At the end of 2014, Virginia SUN launched a solar co-op in Arlington, offering residents a chance to purchase solar panels as a group. Arlington’s Initiative to Rethink Energy and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment helped support and promote the co-op, which ran through most of 2015.
A solar co-op works using the principle of bulk purchasing. Customers were able to purchase their solar panels at about a 30% discount compared to going it alone. The solar systems themselves cost less than half of what they would have just 5 years ago. Virginia SUN also provided guidance throughout the entire process – we’re all frustrated when contractors give confusing information or we feel overcharged.
Ultimately, nearly 300 Arlingtonians had their roofs screened, and of the 130 or so good candidates, 34 folks ended up installing solar systems. With their panels in place, Arlington’s solar co-op participants are reaping the benefits of lower (or nonexistent) electricity bills and a lighter carbon footprint for years to come.
If interested, enter your information near the bottom of this page to have your roof screened for solar panels. Also, check back in a two weeks for part two of our series on solar.
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County
Reward Paid for Bank Robbery Tip — Arlington County Crime Solvers has paid a reward for a tip received that led to the arrest of a bank robbery suspect. The tipster called a 1-800 number to leave a tip after seeing a press release about the Dec. 6 robbery at Capital One Bank in Ballston Common Mall. [Arlington County]
Williamsburg Middle School Closed Monday — Williamsburg Middle School was closed Monday due to a pipe that burst over the weekend, damaging part of the school. [WUSA 9]
‘CoworkCafe’ Launches in Clarendon — A new coworking space concept called CoworkCafe has launched in the lounge next to Boccato Gelato in Clarendon. For $150-200 per month, those seeking to get work done can access the lounge as often as they like. They also get a $50 credit toward food and beverage. [Washington Business Journal]
Solar Co-Op Launching in Arlington — A group of Arlington residents is banding together to form a solar co-op, which will allow members to obtain bulk discounts on the purchase and installation of home solar power equipment. [Sun Gazette, Virginia Sun]
‘Soulless’ Tweeter Spotted in Arlington — Byron Tau, the Wall Street Journal reporter who asked last week if Arlington was the “most soulless place in the United States,” was photographed over the weekend smiling widely at Courthouse’s Fire Works Pizza. “No comment on the record,” Tau tweeted in response to the photo. [Twitter]
Reminder: Pothole, Water Main Break Reporting — As the freeze, thaw, refreeze cycle continues during the month of February, numerous water main breaks and large potholes have been reported around Arlington. If you spot one that needs to be fixed, you can quickly file a report about it via the following “report a problem” online form. [Arlington County]
Veterans Day Ceremony in Clarendon — Members of local American Legion posts gathered at the Clarendon War Memorial on Monday to dedicate a temporary plaque bearing the name of six fallen servicemembers who hailed from Arlington. [Patch]
Fewer Trains Makes for Crowded Commute — Metro commuters who had to work on Veterans Days experienced delays and crowding due to Metro running on a reduced holiday service schedule. [Washington Post]
Parents Keep Pushing for FLES — Parents whose children are in elementary schools that don’t yet have the Foreign Language in Elementary School program are keeping up the pressure on school and county officials. “Despite paying the same tax rate… we are not receiving the same education,” said one Taylor Elementary parent. FLES provides elementary students with just over two hours of Spanish language education a week. [Sun Gazette]
Solar Lab at Va. Tech Ballston Building — In addition to helping to lower energy costs for the building, a solar panel array on the top of the Virginia Tech Research Center in Ballston is serving as a laboratory for graduate students. [Virginia Tech]
Krusinski Case Goes to Trial — The case against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the former chief of the U.S. Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch who was accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman in Crystal City, goes to trial today. A jury is expected to start hearing arguments in the case this morning.
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Pentagon City Elevator Contract Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a contract to design a second elevator for the busy Pentagon City Metro station. The estimated $5.1 million elevator construction project has already received $4.5 million in federal funding. [Arlington County]
Arlington’s Roads Rate ‘Poor’ — More than one third of Arlington County’s 974 mile street network is in “poor” condition, based on the county’s own assessment. The reason for the poor road conditions may lie with spending. The county has been spending significantly less on paving than the amount recommended by its top streets official. [Patch]
Board Considers Solar at Supermarkets — County Board members say they’ll consider a Green Party proposal to either force or encourage supermarkets to install solar power arrays on their roof. The solar power could help refrigerate food during power outages. [Sun Gazette]
Maywood Neighborhood Profiled — The historic Maywood neighborhood of Arlington is “endearing and peaceful” and “extremely friendly,” according to a radio profile. [WAMU]
Renovations Revealed at Crystal City Hotel — Last week the 343-room Crystal City Marriott officially unveiled its $7 million redesign, which included new common areas like a new bar/restaurant and a new fitness center. [Marriott]
Flickr pool photo by Lifeinthedistrict
The 250 panels on the roof of the building are expected to save the library $14,000 per year.
The project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, through a grant administered by the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Henry Kelly of the U.S. Department of Energy, who lives in Arlington, said clean energy plans help to create jobs.
Kelly said, “Investing in clean energy is an integral part of the economic recovery process.”
Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Mary Hynes said the timing of the unveiling is fitting, considering October is National Energy Awareness month. She also wants more green initiatives to spread throughout Arlington.
Hynes said, “I hope this is the first of many opportunities to add solar to our buildings.”
The Central Library plans to continue its push for a greener community by installing a Capital Bikeshare station in front of the Quincy St. entrance. The goal is to have that in place by next spring.
Historic ‘Arlington Oak’ Toppled — A historic tree in Arlington National Cemetery is now firewood thanks to Hurricane Irene. The cemetery revealed last night that the ‘Arlington Oak’ at the Kennedy gravesite had been knocked down by the storm’s high winds and steady rains. “That tree had a significant legacy here,” said a cemetery official. [CBS News]
Firefighters Collecting for MDA — Arlington’s firefighters are out “filling the boot” at busy intersections to collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. A medic crew was out at the intersection of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike last night, and the crew from Engine 109 was spotted out in the Shirlington area, among others. [Shirlington Village Blog]
Are Arlington’s Green Grants Worth It? — Arlington received $3.2 million in federal green energy grants in 2009, according to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. But was it worth it? One of the grants — $300,000 — was spent to place solar panels on the roof of the Arlington Central Library, a move expected to save some $150,000 over 10-15 years. The Journal opines that it may not be the best investment to give “one of the five wealthiest counties in America free money.” [Wall Street Journal]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
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.