Aug 03

LED Street Lights Providing Economic and Environmental Benefits - Dr. Dale Medearis

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 10:59 AM by Bob Lazaro

LED Street Lights

Since 2017, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) has actively helped its members transition from conventional high-energy consuming high-pressure sodium and mercury vapor light bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  The reasons are simple.  LEDs use approximately 75 percent less energy, are more durable and require less maintenance.  This is important to the local governments of our region because streetlights are often among the most expensive energy expenditures.  However, the justification for installing LEDs goes far beyond just their cost savings.  LEDs also produce little infrared and ultraviolet light, thereby reducing light pollution, and their construction through solid-state components contributes to an easier recycling processes.

NVRC contributed to the transition to LEDs through support of improved tariffs covering utility-owned and operated streetlights between Dominion Energy and its local members via the Virginia Energy Purchasing Governmental Association (VEPGA).  The revised tariffs accelerated replacement of broken, non-functional MH and MV luminaires with LED lighting (decorative and basic lights).  The agreements also included revisions to distribution charges per fixture based on schedules and wattage ranges. We were pleased to work with Dominion Energy who made the transition to the new tariffs and lighting seamless.

NVRC’s involvement with the LED transition process expanded in 2019 with its participation in a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) in which NVRC partnered with a consortium of technical consultants (specifically Clean Energy Solutions) and governmental partners such as the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), to provide education, outreach and technical assistance to localities in the region.  to convert conventional streetlights to LEDs.  NVRC supported the technical staff from Clean Energy Solutions with the provision of no-cost technical assistance services that looked at the feasibility and benefits of LED conversions and possible major financing options such as energy performance contracting (EPC), utility incentives, and utility bill repayments.  The results from the analysis have been exceptional.  Localities of the region working to convert conventional streetlights to LEDs could see results like the following:  


Projected Payback in Years

Monthly Energy Savings in $

Avoided Emissions of C02 in Lbs (Estimated Annual Savings)

Avoided Emissions of C02 in Lbs (Estimated Lifetime Savings)

City of Alexandria





Fairfax County





Loudoun County





Town of Leesburg





City of Falls Church





City of Fairfax





Looking ahead to the rest of 2020 and 2021, NVRC with Clean Energy Solutions will host two virtual meetings this September.  The first is to review with Dominion Energy and all the participating localities the overall lessons of the project and assess strengths on which to carry forward and obstacles best to avoid over the past three years.  The second virtual meeting will involve the board of the Virginia Energy Purchasing Governmental Association and explore ideas about the potential adoption of innovations such as on-bill financing that offer strong potential for expanding streetlight LED conversions.  Finally, later this fall, NVRC will work with Clean Energy Solutions to convene a webinar with all the other Virginia planning district commissions within the Dominion service area to share the experiences and benefits of the project from Northern Virginia.

Jul 14

“Summer and the Pandemic: Lessons from Stuttgart, Germany on Public Pools” by Dr. Dale Medearis

Posted on July 14, 2020 at 8:55 AM by Bob Lazaro

The long, hot days of summer are moving people to seek relief outdoors.  They crave not only the openness of parks, but the cool relief of swimming.  Unfortunately, the COVID 19 pandemic has severely restricted access and availability to many parks and public swimming pools.  This has heightened the suffering of the poor, elderly and marginalized populations who suffer disproportionately from extreme heat.  It also highlights the need for planners of the region to accelerate the transformation of designing public swimming pools away from small isolated concrete buckets for just swimming, towards multi-functional park and sustainable spaces that are day-long oasis of natural canopies, recreation, cultural for multiple generations and people.  

The trend towards designing more multi-dimensional swim parks that serve environmental, social and cultural purposes is catching on in this region.  Inspiring designs and operations for public pools are becoming more common across Northern Virginia.  But there are still too many public pools that are mono-dimensionally designed, lack amenities and adequate public access that limit inclusion and relief.  Across the Atlantic in Germany, there are multiple examples of public pools that are ecologically designed and function as safe and healthy refuges for the public to escape the summer heat.   

Practically every city in Germany has public pools (“Freibad”).  German public pools are essentially pool areas built into multi-hectare parks intended to serve a range of social, environmental and cultural functions.  German public pools are built to accommodate swimming, diving, playing, wading for infants and water slides.  They are intentionally designed to serve multiple recreational purposes such as playgrounds and splash parks for children but also host sports venues such as volleyball or futsal.  There is abundant lawn space for sunbathing and lounging but also vast amounts of tree canopies too.  They invariably offer light dining, are accessible by public transportation, and some even host saunas and serve as venues for cultural events.  German public pools are affordable and considered a vital part of a city’s public services and infrastructure.

Now more than ever is the time to design park space that reflect the reality that summers will become warmer, the public’s right for cool and healthy recreational spaces – but most important, our country’s historical and social imperative to make public spaces such as pools inclusive and accessible.  Looking to the Stuttgart region of Germany is a superlative place to start.

City of Sindelfingen Pool
City of Sindelfingen Pool

Mar 05

NVRC Protecting Our Region's Drinking Water Supply - Normand Goulet

Posted on March 5, 2020 at 4:57 PM by Bob Lazaro

Occaquon Reservoir

Beginning in the mid 1970’s the Northern Virginia Regional Commission has coordinated efforts of the Occoquan Watershed local governments to improve and maintain the Occoquan Reservoir water quality and to meet state water quality standards through the Occoquan Management Programs. By fostering cooperation amongst watershed jurisdictions, the Commission becomes a key player for improving the Occoquan Reservoir by navigating the complex technological and political challenges to maintain clean water in a rapidly urbanizing watershed.

Through a group of technical professionals from Fairfax Water, the Upper Occoquan Sewerage Authority, the Occoquan Watershed Monitoring Laboratory, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and along with technical staffs of its member local governments, they have devoted their professional careers to create, build and manage a system that is unique in the United States that reclaims wastewater and produces arguably the most reliable and least expensive drinking water in the metropolitan Washington area.

The Occoquan Watershed covers 590 square miles and includes the Occoquan Reservoir, which serves as the boundary between Fairfax and Prince William counties. The reservoir is one of two major water sources for the Fairfax County Water Authority, which supplies water to over one million people in Northern Virginia.

For more information about our Occoquan program and to view a 60 minute documentary filmed about this important work please visit our web site.