Six localities of the Virginia Peninsula of Hampton Roads participated in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd annual Climate Solutions Roundtables, hosted by the York River Group Sierra Club. These were Hampton, James City County, Poquoson, Newport News, Williamsburg, and York County. Gloucester County also participated in the 3rd. The Southside held their 1st roundtable on October 17, 2022. Each locality is engaged in implementing activities which decrease the use of fossil fuels, addressing the immediate need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Below is a summary of their activities, taken from their presentations.
In the following summaries, the main categories we highlight are: solar usage, energy efficiency in buildings, LED lighting, electric vehicle fleet and EV charging stations.
For a more complete look at some of the localities’ actions, we have added links to their slide presentations.
We look forward to our fourth annual Climate Solutions Roundtable for the VA Peninsula, scheduled for Wednesday, September 20, 2023. The Second Annual Climate Solutions Roundtable for Southside localities is scheduled virtually for Tuesday, October 10, 2023. We wish to extend our compliments to each locality for their participation and their graciousness in sharing tips on how they are reducing emissions and saving costs for their locality.
SolSmart is a national program under the US Department of Energy. It provides no-cost technical assistance to cities, counties and regional organizations, streamlining requirements to encourage solar development in communities.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, with 4 categories: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. Criteria for designation include where buildings are located, building materials used, energy and water efficiency, and indoor environment.
City of Hampton
The 2020 census population of Hampton was 137,148.
Geographical size of Hampton: 136 sq. mi. of which 51 is land and 85 is water.
Presentation by Carolyn Heaps, newly hired resiliency officer for the City of Hampton, replacing David Imburgia. David presented slides of Hampton’s resiliency plans, to address problematic flooding issues in the city, at our first climate solutions roundtable in September 2020, which are in the link.
Carolyn spoke about the plans to address several issues: solar, energy efficient buildings, and transportation.
Renewable Energy Generation: The City is enabling residential solar and wind by including it by-right in the zoning ordinance. It is considering joining Virginia’s SolSmart program to encourage solar uptake. It has enstalled 40W LED off-grid solar lighting at YH Thomas Community Center. A City Solar feasibility study for 13 city-owned buildings was completed in May 2021 and found that the City should prioritize solar carports as well as roof-mounted carports. the City continues to explore the topic of solar.
Building Efficiency: City policy dictates all new facilities be built to LEED Silver standards. The City is conducting an Asset Management Plan and Program to address building energy consumption and sustainability, which will result in a master plan for facility use.
Transportation: Public Works is exploring transition of light vehicles to EV. The City has purchased some hybrid fleet vehicles and conducted aftermarket conversions of ambulances to electric. The Bike Walk Hampton plan implementation and the Bicycle Pedestrian Committee work to expand alternative transportation options to single occupancy vehicles. The bike and pedestrian plans include a “loop trail” that will create connections around the Newmarket Creek watershed.
This link is to the Hampton presentation at the first Climate Solutions Roundtable on September 16, 2020, with a focus on resiliency from future flooding events.
Update from 2022:
Several initiatives including solar, transportation, bike and pedestrian programs are ongoing or undergoing feasibility studies. Hampton has silver LEED certification on several buildings including a community center, fire station and the circuit court. They have kicked off their solar program with plans for the installation of solar panels at Hampton City Hall.
James City County
The 2020 census population of James City County was 78,254.
Geographical size of James City County: 179 sq. mi. of which 142 is land and 37 is water.
The presenter was Cassie Cordova, the newly hired Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, filling a position held earlier in James City County.
Solar: Solar farms have been installed in two privately owned locations, at Rochambeau and at Norge. The County is moving ahead on a solar farm at Jolly Pond, located over a capped landfill. Residents may install solar panels via the SolSmart program, and 118 applications have been received.
Electric Vehicles: The County is in the process of switching from gas to electric fueled utility carts. They have 12 trucks and 5 ground mowers operating with propane gas plus 7 vehicles which are hybrid; more are planned in coming years.
Electric School Buses: Four are operating, shared with Williamsburg.
Energy Efficient Buildings: Since 2010, all new county buildings need to be LEED certified silver or better. Of the 5 new buildings, two are silver and three are a higher category of gold certified. Some of their buildings have geothermal systems.
Energy Efficiency Lighting: A conversion to LED lighting is ongoing.
Other projects include stormwater management, addressing urban heat islands, and stream restoration.
Cassie received a master’s degree in global sustainability and worked on bio digesters, which she might like to introduce in JCC, as they have advantages in breaking down some types of waste and converting to a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and to methane, basically a clean-burning fuel.
This link is to the James City County presentation at the Climate Solutions Roundtable on September 15, 2021.
Update from 2022:
Cassie Cordova, JCC Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, gave a slide presentation on an extensive list of initiatives. The county’s website provides information on “Going Solar” and 150 applications applying for permits, up from 118 last year. JCC has four solar privately-owned solar farms in construction or in development stages, and a capped landfill that is a potential candidate for solar.
On their fleet vehicles: Five years ago, all utility carts were gas; today 9 of 19 are electric; five grounds mowers are propane, plus one new propane forklift. JCC has 13 trucks operating on propane, one additional since last year. They have 7 hybrid vehicles in the fleet and one EV vehicle in service in the Fire Department as of FY22. JCC has 10 EV charging stations. They share four EV school buses with Williamsburg and some kinks have been worked out regarding charging operations. Cassie recommended going forward with smaller buses which would have longer range.
All residential streetlights are being converted to LED, saving quite a lot of expense. JCC has two energy and sustainability teams which provide education on “vampire power” and will look into funding from the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the Conservation Block Grant program. They are drafting a working sustainability plan for the county. Link to James City County 2022 presentation:
City of Newport News
The 2020 census population of Newport News was 186,247.
Geographical size of Newport News: 120 sq. mi. of which 69 is land and 51 is water.
The presenter was the sustainability manager, Jennifer Privette, who has been with the city since 2010 and holds several positions with regional sustainability networks. Her work is exemplary and a model for other localities.
Solar: Newport News Public Schools have entered into a power purchase agreement to install solar panels on roof tops of 5 schools and ground-mounted at 2 schools. Residents may apply for solar arrays through the City, and the number of applications is continuing to grow. The City has achieved SolSmart Bronze Designation, a national program. The city collaborated with Christopher Newport University’s Center for Sustainability in Education Fellowship Program to receive the SolSmart designation.
EV Charging Stations: Over a dozen are installed throughout the city’s parking garages, with plans to add more.
Vehicle Fleet: 39 police utility hybrid vehicles and another 38 being prepped for service. The newer hybrids are more fuel efficient. They are using propane fuel, less expensive and cleaner burning.
Water Metering Upgrade: This enables the detection of water leaks with Advanced Metering Infrastructure in place.
This link is to the September 15, 2021, Newport News slide presentation by Jennifer at the Climate Solutions Roundtable, showing these and other actions taken by Newport News. Of particular interest are the international cycling competition to reduce carbon emissions through biking; the Bee Byway pollinator corridor; and a food forest in southeast Newport News.
Update from 2022:
The presenter was Jennifer Privette, who is the Sustainability Manager for Newport News. NN has solar projects on six schools, three of which are completed, two mostly completed and one in design stage. The diesel buses are being replaced by propane-fueled buses which are preferable considering lower emissions and lower costs with propane. The city has a new bicycle and pedestrian master plan connecting all parts of Newport News in an equitable and inclusive manner. A new building policy is requiring green building design for new buildings and an audit was done to improve 12 aging buildings in terms of energy efficiency. The city has added EV charging stations and also added to their EV vehicle fleet.
Kathie Angle is the new Supervisor of Stormwater Engineering for Newport News and spoke about the city’s stormwater and floodplain master plan. Newport News received $4.9 million from the Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF), with the city funding their share of $1.4 million for the project from July 2022 through September 2025. The CFPF has allocated funding to other Hampton Roads localities, and the funding comes from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
City of Poquoson
The 2020 census population of Poquoson was 12,460.
Geographical size of Poquoson: 78 sq. mi. of which 15 is land and 63 is water.
The presenter was Tonya O’Connell, Assistant City Manager.
Solar: Schools are working to enter into a contract to install solar panels on the four schools in Poquoson.
Energy Efficiency Lighting: LED lighting has been placed along streets and parking lots in the City and will continue as funding permits.
Vehicle Fleet: Some hybrid vehicles have been added to the City fleet.
Pedestrian walkways and parks: Several small parks have been created in the City and six acres were purchased for a future green park with a picnic shelter. A grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation allowed for the construction of sidewalks connecting the school campuses.
Update from 2022:
Tonya O’Connell, Poquoson’s Assistant City Manager, was not able to join the roundtable, but conveyed to us that Poquoson is pursuing grant opportunities to address carbon reductions. Poquoson has installed solar on their four public schools and implemented other initiatives, reported in last years’ summary.
City of Williamsburg
The 2020 census population of Williamsburg was 15,425.
Geographical size of Williamsburg: 9.1 sq. mi. of which 8.9 is land and 0.2 is water
Presented by Williamsburg Councilmember Caleb Rogers.
Recycling program: The City collects paper, used motor oil, metals and tires. It manages a curbside leaf collection program that uses the mulched leaves as compost for city projects.
Bicycle and pedestrian trail: This trail connects sections of the City with plans to encircle the City.
Energy Efficiency: LEED silver classification for the Stryker and municipal building.
Electric School Buses: Four are operating, shared with James City County.
EV Charging Stations: There is a total of 13 throughout the City.
Sustainability Plan: Michele DeWitt, promoted to Assistant City Manager, will also direct a sustainability plan for the City.
Update from 2022
Caleb Rogers, Williamsburg City Councilmember, presented information on behalf of the City of Williamsburg. It was good to hear that Williamsburg partnered with a highly reputable national and international organization called ICLEI which helps jurisdictions of all sizes to develop and implement a climate action plan to lower carbon emissions. The cost was $11,000 for the year which includes data collection, recommendations, and monthly consultations. As Caleb said, Williamsburg is a small city with an international address. There is a belief that despite their size, they can do their part in reduce their carbon footprint. They completed a multi-use bike and pedestrian trail through the city. The Waller Mill Reservoir in the city received the gold award for its cleanliness. Four EV school buses are operating, shared with James City County.
The 2020 census population of York County was 70,045.
Geographical size of York County: 215 sq. mi. of which 105 is land and 110 is water
Presenter was Samantha McNeil, York County Outreach Coordinator for Public Works.
EV Charging Stations: 9 located throughout the county accessible to the public. There are future plans to install a charging station at Vehicle Maintenance for future EV fleet vehicles.
Vehicle fleet: Several vehicles are either fully electric or hybrid, with plans to add more. 18 vehicles have been converted to use propane fuel, as it is less expensive, cleaner burning, and a rebate is included.
Energy Efficiency: A new engineering manager with energy efficiency experience was recently hired, and the County will incorporate energy efficiency into new building and renovation projects. Fire Station #1 was built last year with LEED silver certification. York Library is receiving EE renovations, and the new Law Enforcement Center is being designed to be LEED certified.
Energy Efficiency Lighting: Many streetlights and outdoor lighting at sports fields are being replaced with LED lighting, which uses one-third the energy. Power is provided in some areas by geothermal, specifically at the riverwalk at the Yorktown Waterfront.
This link is to the York County presentation at the 2021 Climate Solutions Roundtable, showing these and additional actions being taken by York County.
Update from 2022:
The presenter for York County was Samantha McNeil, Outreach Coordinator for Public Works.
York County is adding more electric vehicles to their fleet. The county converted 18 vehicles to use propane fuel, cutting costs, and now has a propane fueling site located in the county. At present there are nine publicly accessible EV charging stations, with a tenth planned at York Library when renovations are completed, plus more planned at the vehicle maintenance location and at the development and planning office. Geothermal wells have been installed to provide energy for the new sheriff’s office. The York Library renovation project has been going on which has insulation and waterproofing components that will feature a very energy-efficient building. Solar site evaluations were conducted at several building sites, and although none were good candidates for solar, there may be opportunities for rooftop solar arrays in the future. The transition from sodium outdoor lighting to LED lighting is ongoing. Another initiative is a bike and pedestrian sidewalk project along Route 17 and connecting to the two libraries in York County. Studies show that sidewalks and bikeways bring about a 40% increase in foot traffic and get people out of their vehicles. York County has a plastic bag collection program which they send to TREX, a Virginia company that makes durable outdoor items like benches by combining the plastic with wood waste. The benches are then donated to the county’s schools.
Carol Steele, Gloucester County Administrator, joined the group for the first time. As Gloucester is new to the roundtable, Carol wished to gain information by listening to plans and actions neighboring localities are putting in place. Gloucester has approved several solar facilities and a facility for batteries.
They have installed geothermal heating/cooling for some buildings. The county is working on multimodal paths and sidewalks on Route 17. There is a new state park and a national park opening in Gloucester, contributing to preservation of green space.
City of Chesapeake
Representing Chesapeake was Brian Solis, Deputy City Manager. Accompanied by a slide presentation, he reported on many important aspects of how Chesapeake is lowering emissions and protecting natural habitats.
The city has 2,000 acres of solar farms on private property that are either approved or already in place. Brian said he is working to establish policy so the arrays will be sited on previously developed areas rather than on green fields or agricultural land.
Chesapeake powers 41% of their entire vehicle fleet on alternative fuels, significantly reducing carbon emissions. Close to 100% of everyday usage is by electric vehicles. Other fuels include CNG (compressed natural gas), propane, hybrid gas and electric vehicles, diesel, and gasoline. Their fleet of 63 solid waste trucks has run on CNG since 2012. Chesapeake also operates a public access CNG station.
Natural Area Protection
Previously working for the City of Virginia Beach, Brian worked on several projects which protect natural areas, including the preservation of Stumpy Lake, of which Chesapeake has 340 acres and serves as a backup water resource for Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
City of Norfolk
The presenter for Norfolk was Theresa Jennings, Assistant Director, Department of General Services. Norfolk is the only locality in the Hampton Roads Area to have a climate action plan, which was adopted in 2019. A summary and the entire climate action plan can be found on their Norfolk Climate Action Hub website: https://www.norfolk.gov/5227/Norfolk-Climate-Action-Hub
Three projects which are in progress are placing solar on top of the city landfill, on three fire stations, and putting solar canopies on some of the parking facilities in the city.
Energy Efficient Buildings
The city has enrolled in the US Department of Energy’s Better Business Challenge whereby the city commits to a 20% reduction in municipal building energy. They are also working with the Virginia Department of Energy for the purpose of energy savings at the school administration building and other city buildings. They employ energy efficient standards in new buildings.
They use a monitoring program that shows the entire energy usage for the city, in categories of usage of electricity, gas, water, and carbon footprint over a 12-month period. This enables a person to see which library, for example, is using the most energy and thereby focus on energy reduction strategies. The program to install LED lighting is ongoing.
Norfolk has 47 EV charging stations, mostly located in the downtown area of the city.
City of Portsmouth
The presentation was made by Gina Harris, Resiliency Officer for the City of Portsmouth, Department of Social Services. Gina specifically works on flood preparedness measures for the city as well as many other endeavors. The city adopted a comprehensive plan called Build One Portsmouth, with a goal to achieve sustainable operations and to preserve its communities through best practices and innovative efforts. Some services that the city provides relating to environmental concerns include regular curbside recycling pick-ups. The mosquito control division is careful to protect the bee colonies by not spraying pesticides in designated buffer areas. The city was designated as bicycle-friendly and has developed a bicycle and pedestrian plan.
City of Virginia Beach
The presenter for Virginia Beach was Trevor McPhail-Vuomo, Energy Manager for Virginia Beach Public Schools. Trevor spoke about four city schools where rooftop solar has been installed, which are Ocean Lakes Elementary School, Princess Anne Middle School, Renaissance Academy, and Thoroughgood Elementary School. Two Virginia based solar companies worked together, under a power purchase agreement (PPA): Sun Tribe Solar based in Charlottesville and Convert Solar, based in Virginia Beach. With a PPA, there are no costs to the consumer for the operation, maintenance, and repairs at these schools, unless panels are removed for roof replacement. The system, including modules, inverters, and racking, is warranted for 25 years. Should any part fail, the PPA is based on kilowatt hours produced. The more parts that fail, the less the solar array produces, providing an incentive for the installers to keep the system working properly. The partnership with Sun Tribe and Convert Solar handled 100% of the structural analysis, engineering design, permits and Dominion’s paperwork.
The cost of electricity purchased via PPA is currently 25% cheaper than Dominion’s rate, adding up to a savings of about $125,000 per year for the four schools. The slide presentation shows designs of the projects followed by actual rooftop photos.
Isle of Wight County
The County of Isle of Wight contracted with the solar company Sigora Solar in 2021 to install solar arrays on seven of their nine schools. They are using a power purchase agreement (PPA) which means the division does not pay anything to operate or maintain the solar arrays and can purchase the energy produced by the solar arrays, which is less expensive than purchasing from Dominion Energy. The estimated savings to Isle of Wight over the 20-year contract is $3 million. Although invited, no representative from Isle of Wight attended the roundtable.