Requested Policy to Add Solar Power to Albemarle County-owned Buildings

Dear Albemarle County Supervisors and Members of the School Board:

We ask that Albemarle County adopt a policy that maximizes the extent of solar power on County-owned buildings, systematically, both now and over future years and decades.  We urge that the policy includes more decisive action with regard to adding solar power for County-owned buildings than is indicated in the Phase One Climate Action Plan as it will come before the BOS.

Please enact the following two sentences - either as an addition in B.7.3 of the Phase One Climate Action Plan or as an independent resolution taking effect now and to be incorporated into B.7.3 of the Phase Two Climate Action Plan when Phase Two is adopted.

For County-owned buildings that can accommodate solar roofs, solar panels will be installed within five years of a roof replacement.  For buildings that cannot accommodate a solar roof, if there is ground space available to accommodate a ground-based solar array, it will be added within five years of roof replacement.

These are our reasons for the requested policy:

1. Tying solar panels to roof replacement is the method of phasing in implementation that makes physical and economic sense.  If PPA agreements are used to avoid up-front capital expenses, an interval of up to five years provides for collecting a set of buildings in order to secure advantageous terms, while conserving most of the new roofs' usable lives.

2. Climate change is getting worse!  We must act at every level without delay.

3. The Virginia Clean Economy Act that became effective July 1, 2020 has removed the legal barrier to installing more solar on buildings.

4. Although the COVID-19 crisis makes it difficult to commit in the near term to major capital investments, Albemarle County has 2015 experience with PPA financing of six solar school roofs, and can solicit bids for new PPA contracts now and in the future. These agreements avoid up-front capital expenditures, reduce the billing rate of the electricity that is produced by the solar panels by a negotiated amount over (typically) a 20-year period, and the solar provider maintains the panels it owns over the life of the agreement.

Thus, unlike many other beneficial climate actions, phasing in solar power is feasible now and in the foreseeable future.

5. Rising coronavirus-related unemployment makes new infrastructure jobs especially attractive now.  Because the Charlottesville-Albemarle area is an important clean energy hub in Virginia, the new employment opportunities will substantially benefit County residents.

6. We all are experiencing extraordinary levels of stress about climate change, plus COVID-19, plus the unemployment and poverty the virus creates, plus America's increasing political turmoil. By initiating the adoption of solar electricity on some of its own buildings – very visibly leading climate action by example – Albemarle County will send a message of renewal and hope. It will encourage County residents and businesses to step up and contribute their own clean energy improvements – an indispensable element for meeting the County's greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Thank you.

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