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Lorton May Become a Green Energy Corridor

How green will we go?

The South County Federation’s Land Use Committee (LUC) is considering a recommendation to establish a Green Energy Corridor (GEC), which could be the first of its kind in the United States.

This corridor would be bordered by Route 123, Lorton Road, I-95 and the Occoquan River, equating to almost 1,000 acres. One of its primary objectives would be to supply the campus with sufficient renewable energy so that it can effectively operate off the electrical grid, according to a presentation made to the LUC.

The LUC is working with several stakeholders in this process including Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland’s office, the Lorton Arts Foundation (LAF), the Fairfax County Department of Public Works (DPW), the Lorton Landfill (owned by EnviroSolutions Inc.), and local citizens interested in renewable energy and horticulture.

At monthly South County Federation meetings, DPW has proposed a solar farm on land adjacent to LAF with the initial phase capable of producing approximately two megawatts of power and a later phase capable of an additional two to three megawatts. The electricity from the solar farm could be used to supply LAF’s electrical needs. Excess electricity could be sold on the electrical grid or used by other county facilities located nearby.

Landfill Wind and Solar Power Plans

Earlier this year, Envirosolutions proposed a wind farm on its Lorton Landfill at a South County Federation meeting. Due to the height of the landfill, wind turbines can tap into wind currents that enable them to effectively generate electricity. The wind farm would be implemented in two phases. The first phase would include three medium-sized turbines that would be installed once the necessary approvals have been secured. These turbines would be located on the south end of the landfill, facing I-95. In the long term, nine more turbines would be installed, again on top of the site. The total capacity of the wind farm would be three megawatts.

In addition to the wind farm, a solar farm would be established on the Lorton Landfill’s southwestern facing slope. Capable of one megawatt of power, the electricity produced would be transmitted to the electrical grid.

A geothermal network would be installed in the Lorton Landfill which would generate heat sufficient to service 500 average sized homes or 1 million square feet. 

A horticultural park would be developed on a nine-acre tract of land located between the Lorton landfill and DPW’s closed I-95 landfill. This park would include community garden plots, rain gardens, a community pavilion and greenhouses. The greenhouses would be heated by the nearby geothermal network located in the landfill and electrical needs serviced by on site solar panels.

For almost 20 years, DPW has contracted with a private company to convert methane gas from its closed I-95 landfill into electricity. The facility carrying out this conversion is located next to the county’s closed I-95 landfill. Historically, this facility has produced approximately six megawatts of electricity. In addition, it has supplied methane to the  for its treatment process. 

Under the GEC concept, a new methane network would be installed in Envirosolution’s Lorton Landfill. This methane would be carried by underground pipes to the county’s existing methane conversion facility. From this additional methane, electricity would be produced to service the Lorton Arts Foundation’s power needs.

In addition to the existing methane conversion facility, a nearby waste-to-energy facility generates more than 80 megawatts of power daily, using waste from the county as fuel.  In the long term, it is possible that excess heat from this facility could be captured in a process known as thermal recovery so as to provide heating for local buildings.

Recently, DPW completed installation of a major pipeline that carries recycled water from the to the waste-to-energy plant for cooling and to the County Park Authority’s for irrigation. This installation further brands the area a corridor of renewable uses.

Education and Monitoring

Educational kiosks would be installed at the Lorton Arts Foundation, highlighting its role of being an off-the-grid campus, according to a presentation by the LAF to the Federation. These kiosks would feature each of the renewable technologies operating in the GEC: solar, wind, methane, geothermal, waste-to-energy as well as the importance of the Chesapeake Bay Act and sound storm water management practices.

Monitoring systems would provide a live feed to the kiosks so that data and visual would be projected from each of the operating technologies. Visitors to the kiosks could observe the various technologies in operation as well as see production data and related energy conservation facts. All data from this educational feature would be accessible to the internet so that school teachers could utilize the data for instruction in science and math classes.

From solar, wind and geothermal to trash and recycled water, the Lorton GEC would host an array of renewable technologies unparalleled in the US. With a combined energy equivalent capacity of almost 100 megawatts, nowhere else does there exist such a diverse combination of renewable technologies. Further, this corridor would be located in a major metropolitan area. 

Effectively, the GEC would transform the area from an industrial-centered footprint to one of the leading renewable energy centers in the United States and do so within a very short period of time. Once again, Lorton would go through another major transformation which launches it into the future.

Irma Clifton is a writer, historian and member of the South County Federation.

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