Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

When Will State Officials Authorize Rooftop Solar Options?

solarinstall2The “fix is in” for dealing with solar energy during the 2017 session of the General Assembly.  It’s not a good deal for homeowners or small businesses.

The 2017 General Assembly game plan is to endorse a deal cut by investor-owned utilities (Dominion, Appalachian Power) and the rich farmers:
– the utilities will get to control efforts to build community solar systems.  No options will be provided for community-owned solar systems, in addition to utility-owned systems.
– electricity delivered from new utility-owned systems could be priced at current rates charged by the big utilities, or even at pay-a-premium costs
– no Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) will be authorized.  Homeowners who can afford $10-25,000 to install their own rooftop system can continue to do so, but the state will continue to block business deals that involve third-party financing of the costs to install rooftop solar. Virginia will remain closed to businesses willing to invest in solar installations on individual homes.

Bills to make it easier to install solar panels on rooftops of typical homeowners were blocked by the 2016 General Assembly. Proposed legislation involving solar energy must be passed by the Commerce and Labor Committee in the House of Delegates and the State Senate. The committee chairs blocked those bills, claiming the issue required more discussion.

Later in 2016, that discussion was held – in private.

A lawyer, Mark Rubin led negotiations between the two major for-profit utilities in Virginia (Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power) and one group of farmers (Powered by Facts). The Virginia Solar Energy Industry Association also got to participate.

The “Rubin Group” brokered a deal that satisfies the few large farmers involved on one side, and the large utilities on the other side. Small farmers, small businesses, and every homeowner in Virginia was left out of the deal.

The Rubin Group deal would continue to block installation of solar panels on rooftops of typical homeowners. Continue reading

Uranium Mining – A risky proposition for Virginia

by Bryanna Altman

The Virginia General Assembly is expected to vote  this  year (2012) on whether to lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.  Nuclear power is generated using uranium, a metal mined in various parts of the world. Nuclear power produces huge amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel, without the pollution you’d get from burning fossil fuels.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.  In 2010 the country’s 104 nuclear reactors produced over 20% of total electrical output.  It is expected that 4-6 new nuclear reactors may come on line by 2020.

A company called Virginia Uranium, Inc. wants to mine a deposit known as Coles Hill site in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the only economically viable source identified in Virginia (National Academy of Sciences report). Virginia Uranium says tests indicate there are about 119 million pounds of uranium, worth as much as $10 billion, below the surface.  It is the world’s seventh-largest known deposit, or enough to supply all U.S. nuclear power plants for about two years or Virginia’s demands for 75 years.  

Virginia Uranium, Inc. executives also stated the company is owned by locals who care about their community and would never risk polluting it. But behind Virginia Uranium Inc. are two Canadian corporations, Virginia Energy Resources and Sprott, which hold a 49.8% interest in Virginia Uranium, Inc.   Continue reading

Energy Efficiency – An Idea Good Enough to Share With Others

The Obama Administration has endorsed construction of new nuclear power plants as a tool to reduce global warming.  Not everyone thinks that’s a good idea, and some people are solidly convinced that climate change is just a hoax – but almost everyone supports increasing energy efficiency.  

There’s one thing in common between climate change alarmists and climate change deniers: they both see benefits in reducing energy use, without adopting a “freeze in the dark” approach.

After all, energy-efficient homes will save families money.  Energy-efficient offices will increase profits for private businesses.  Energy-efficient  schools and other public buildings could reduce taxes, or free up funding for other services.  Energy-efficient factories will produce goods at lower cost, increasing the potential for keeping jobs in America.  More-competitive industry in America could increase exports and reduce imports of foreign oil, enhancing national security. 

Those who don’t believe in the predicted impact of carbon dioxide levels, and those who are concerned but are not taking action yet, can be motivated to take action – if there’s some other reason to act, independent of the global warming concerns.  Fortunately, there are several such reasons (save money, support local jobs, enhance energy independence…) that could spur everyone to increase energy efficiency, including those who do not think that greater efficiency could also save the shorelines.

Want to learn more about how to find common ground?  Spend an afternoon on February 27 at the Tools for Change Workshop III, organized by the Northern Virginia Climate Action Network.  Workshop is free, from 1:00-5:00pm on a Saturday afternoon in a garden center near the Fairfax County Parkway and I-66.  You can register online.

Greening the county, six streetlights at a time

As reported by the Washington Post, Prince William will get over $3 million from the Federal government to implement some alternative energy projects.  County officials may grouse about Obama and the Federal stimulus bill.. but we’ll still take advantage of whatever the Feds will offer.

We’ll see solar panels of the roof of the McCoart building, new sensors to automagically turn off lights when no one is in a room, and “energy dashboard monitors that will provide real-time data on energy use to building visitors and staff members.”  To determine the best Low Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights, 6 of the 6,000 streetlights in Prince William will be converted in a pilot test.

(Fairfax County is testing 10 streetlights in Reston, plus others at the Virginia Railway Express parking lot in Burke Centre and at 10 Fairfax Connector bus stops.  EPA has results from numerous tests across the country now, in various climates and at different latitudes.)

This bodes well for the Energy section in the draft Environment Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, which is scheduled to be updated in 2010.
Continue reading

Sept. 25 2009 is Earth Overshoot Day

earthToday is Earth Overshoot Day – the day when humanity has used up the amount of natural resources that ought to last a year if we were to live in a sustainable manner. After today, we begin living beyond our ecological means and adding to our ecological debt.

In 2008 we reached this point on September 23. So, despite a recession and growing awareness about the climate crisis, we’re only a couple days ahead of where we were last year and a whole month behind the 2007 marker.

While the numbers may not be perfect, the concept is clear. And since we’re all part of the problem, last spring I decided to try to be part of the solution and see what kind of a difference I could make to myself. Continue reading

Solar Energy

Two announcements just arrived:

Oct 3 – 4: D.C. Metro Area Solar Homes Tour
The D.C. Sierra Club, along with the Virginia Solar Council and Potomac Region Solar Energy Industry Association volunteers, are hosting their 19th annual D.C. metro area solar homes tour on October 3 and 4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Over sixty solar-powered homes will highlight a variety of passive design, technology and sustainable living concepts, including photovoltaic and solar hot water systems, radiant heat, energy-efficient appliances, and energy-saving building construction techniques. Many homeowners also will be demonstrating their energy and water conservation measures, recycling and composting procedures, and their fuel-efficient or alternative energy vehicles.  For more, see

Oct 9 – 18: 2009 Solar Decathlon
The Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition where 20 teams of university students from around the world develop fully-functional houses that draw all their energy from the sun. After spending two years developing their homes, the students ship their partially completed homes to the National Mall, finish building the homes, and then compete in 10 contests that measure the team’s skills in architecture, home design, and communications. The solar homes must produce enough electricity and hot water to perform all the normal functions of a home, including powering the lights and home electronics, washing clothes and dishes, showering, and cooking, all while maintaining a comfortable temperature. The event will be open to the public on October 9-13 and 15-18. For more, see

If Global Warming is a total hoax…

… should we do nothing?

The George Mason University Center for Climate Chance Communication has completed a Global Warming’s Six Americas 2009: An Audience Segmentation Analysis report.  The report found that 18% of Americans are “alarmed,” while 7% are “dismissive.”  In between are people who are concerned, cautious, disengaged, or doubtful.

So how could an energy conservation section in an updated Environment Chapter for the Comp Plan minimize political controversy?

Continue reading