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With the confluence of energy-producing systems in the Lorton area, Fairfax County is exploring designating the area as the “Lorton Green Energy Triangle” and further developing alternative energy production there.

The area already features the waste-to-energy trash incinerator, a closed landfill with a landfill gas collection system and the county’s wastewater treatment plant, which has been developing wastewater recycling and reuse options.

There are a couple of county projects in the works that will increase energy production at those facilities, said Joyce Doughty, director of solid waste disposal and resource recovery.

“We do have a lot of elements that do fall into the category of green energy right now, and when you look into the future there are even more,” she said.

The county will soon be putting out a request for proposals to place solar panels on top of its closed landfill to generate electricity. The hope is to break ground on that project by the end of this year, Doughty said.

At the Norman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant, the county’s wastewater treatment facility, the county plans to make improvements to the furnaces that are used to dispose of the biosolids removed during the treatment process.

In addition to making the system comply with new air pollution regulations, the furnaces will recover about 1 megawatt of electricity, which is enough to supply electricity to a few hundred homes.

The wastewater plant is already reusing effluent from the plant for watering the Laurel Hill Golf Course and for cooling at the waste-to-energy plant and hopes to find additional customers for its water reuse program, according to Doughty.

The change in branding and focus on alternative energy sources would be welcomed by residents of the Lorton area, said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee). It could also open up possibilities for grants or other recognition, he said.

“This is an opportunity; we can turn it into a real positive for southeastern Fairfax,” McKay said.

The privately owned Lorton Landfill, which is located near the county’s closed I-95 landfill, is also exploring energy generation options that could contribute to the alternative energy generation in the Lorton area, Doughty said.

The private landfill could join in the county’s landfill gas system, which already generates about 6 megawatts of electricity by capturing the methane gas produced by decaying trash and converting it to electricity. The wastewater treatment plant also burns landfill gas that is piped in, rather than natural gas.

The Lorton Landfill also could potentially be developed with wind turbines or solar panels for additional energy generation.

Other ideas the county is exploring include using the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center, a potential customer of these alternative energy sources, as a site to educate people about the county’s efforts to develop cleaner energy sources.

There are also possible smaller-scale changes, like making use of the steam remaining after energy generation at the waste-to-energy plant, Doughty said.

“This could really put Fairfax County on the map from an environmental perspective,” said Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason), chair of the Board of Supervisors’ Environment Committee. “We have the opportunity to make our mark, to use the property that we have … and use it for exciting things now and in the future.”

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com