Monthly Archives: January 2018

Energy Management in Parks: We’re saving resources, your money, and Earth

Energy-Great Falls Nike ParkReduce our carbon footprint. Reduce our energy use. Reduce pollution. Become more energy efficient.

Those words describe today’s environmental movement, and they mean, “We’re taking care of the earth.”

We’re using those words frequently inside the Fairfax County Park Authority because we’re doing our part to take care of our portion of the earth. Behind those words is a simple thought. If you use less energy, then you create less pollution. And to that list you can add “provide better service.”

In 2013, the Park Authority Board adopted the county’s energy policy, confirming a commitment to promote energy efficiency and conservation. Next came a plan to develop and implement an energy management program for park facilities. We’re executing that plan now by monitoring our energy consumption, improving our facilities, and reviewing those improvements to track their effectiveness. We named an energy manager to oversee the changes.

Making Parks Energy Efficient

We invite you to look inside the Park Authority to see what we are doing to reduce our energy consumption, which protects your county resources and reflects responsible use of finances.

Let’s start with lights. Many parks require lighting for large indoor and outdoor spaces – ball fields, tennis courts, RECenters, and so on. These spaces present opportunities to drastically cut energy use and promote energy efficiency. We’ve upgraded lighting and control systems that, in some places, have cut energy use more than 70%.Energy-Audrey Moore REC

Here are some of the places we’ve upgraded lighting systems:

  • Audrey Moore RECenter gymnasium
  • Cub Run RECenter swimming pools
  • Green Spring Gardens, indoor and outdoor
  • Lee District tennis and volleyball courts
  • Laurel Hill Golf Club, indoor and outdoor
  • Area 2 Maintenance and turf crew buildings and maintenance shop
  • Frying Pan Farm parking lot (solar lighting)
  • Mason District soccer field
  • Great Falls Nike soccer field

Improved illumination offered by indoor and outdoor LED lighting and new control systems have provided benefits such as:

  • Significant energy savings/cost avoidance
  • Significant maintenance cost avoidance
  • Better light and color uniformity and consistency
  • Longer equipment life cycle
  • More control because of instant-on lights and astronomical timers
  • Dark sky compliance

New equipment and updated amenities are the most visible changes county residents will notice, and we’ve heard from some regular visitors that they love the improved lighting. We love the energy savings and cost avoidance that ranges from 45% at athletic fields up to 75% at some indoor pools and gymnasiums.

energy-Cub Run RECOther examples of energy improvement projects include Variable Frequency Drive systems installed for pool pumps and web-based, smart irrigation systems installed at parks.

Both the county and park boards and management teams support these projects, and the County Environmental Program has funded some energy management projects to enhance environmental benefits.

What’s Next?

Upgrading facilities will advance the Park Authority’s energy efficiency. The FCPA also is moving toward automated control for HVAC systems to monitor and optimize energy usage. Incorporating more solar systems where feasible is a part of plans for future energy projects.

The FCPA is a leading steward of the county’s resources. We know we have an impact on our community, and we take that seriously. Energy-efficient programs maintain the beauty of the parks and protect natural resources. For example, the outdoor lighting upgrades are all Dark Sky compliant, which means minimal light pollution to surrounding areas. We hope we set an example that our fellow residents will follow when they take on home projects such as changing outdoor light fixtures on their homes. Imagine the incredible impact on light pollution across Fairfax County if every individual homeowner and individual business would follow our lead and install Dark Sky compliant lighting on their own small parcel of District Park

New energy-efficient projects will roll out in the future. In the planning stages are improved athletic field, court and parking lot lighting and controls, water usage monitoring systems for RECenters, automation control for RECenter HVAC systems, the purchase of energy-efficient lawnmowers, and other building and facility updates. These myriad projects will reduce our carbon footprint, our energy use, our pollution, and improve service to facility, park and RECenter guests.

Those of us who work at the Park Authority are dedicated to developing an energy management program for park facilities. Energy efficiency, better lighting, and more efficient air and pool temperature controls. Less energy use. Less pollution.

We’re taking care of your resources and our planet.

Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.