Delegate Minchew Speaks at Piedmont Environmental Council Press Conference

PEC practices what it preaches on solar energy

By Cassandra Brown, Staff Journalist, Fauquier Now

The Piedmont Environmental Council showed off Warrenton’s largest solar installation Tuesday morning. 

The $34,000 project on Horner Street includes 38 panels on the roof of the non-profit’s new five-story addition, completed last fall. 

By investing in renewable energy, the PEC hopes to encourage homeowners, businesses and farms to consider that option through its “Solarize Piedmont” campaign.

“It’s largely a matter of doing what we are preaching,” PEC Senior Energy Policy Analyst Rob Marmet said. “We created more (energy) demand by increasing the size of our building and wanted to offset that.” 

In November, the PEC completed the $3-million renovation and expansion of its office at 45 Horner St. The project included a geothermal heating/cooling system, LED lighting and other energy-saving measures. 

Solar Solutions for All of Leesburg installed the panels over two weeks in March. 

Measuring 39 by 65 inches, the panels will help offset the entire 9,800-square-foot building’s electricity costs. 

“Our purchase of electricity from Dominion is expected to be cut in half,” PEC President Chris Miller said. 

The solar panels will produce about 16,000 kilowatts of electricity annually, saving an estimated $2,000 on power bills. 

“Over a 25-year lifespan, we expect as high as a 7.5-percent rate of return” annually, Mr. Miller said. “And it happens to be a good financial decision that also created local employment, increased energy security, will reduce our electric demand at peak hours and will reduce overall emissions for years to come.” 

The PEC last summer launched the “Solarize Piedmont” campaign with the Charlottesville-based LEAP (Local Energy Alliance Program) and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.

More than 300 home and business owners showed interested and 11 installed solar panels during the first program. 

An average residential solar installation costs $20,000 to $25,000. But the 30-percent federal tax credit brings the cost down, according to Bri West, PEC’s director of outreach and communications. 
Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Del. Randy Minchew (R-10th/Leesburg) supports legislation that would encourage more solar energy installations in Virginia.
The “Solarize Piedmont” program provides free assessment of a house to determine if it is a good candidate for solar, financing options and panel installation. 

“We are acting as an agent to vet contractors . . . It saves a lot of people six months to a year of homework,” LEAP Executive Director Andrew Grigsby said. 

This year’s “Solarize Piedmont” program runs through June 15 and is open to residents of Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties.

Del. Randy Minchew (R-10th/Leesburg) noted that Virginia lags behind other states in support for solar energy.

For example, in neighboring Maryland, Frederick County solar installations product 21.8 megawatts of electricity, more than in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.



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