WINCHESTER — Valley Car Wash uses water, but it also uses the sun.
On Tuesday afternoon, the business at 126 Cole Lane off Berryville Pike held a ribbon-cutting for its 71-kilowatt, roof-mounted solar array — the largest commercial-scale solar installation in Frederick County.
Owner Ned Browning of Winchester said the car wash has been incorporating green technology for years, including water conservation, pollution prevention and biodegradable soap options. Adding clean solar energy was “the next level,” he said.
The solar array went into operation in April and is expected to pay for itself in five years. According to Browning, the installation cost about $176,000, with roughly 25% covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The solar energy produced by the system provides about 35-38% of the electricity used at the car wash.
Browning worked on the project with Mountain View Solar, a solar installer headquartered in West Virginia with satellite offices in Winchester and Charles Town.
State Sen. Jill Vogel, R-27th, was among those who attended Tuesday’s event. She commended Browning and Mountain View Solar President Mike McKechnie for their investment in solar energy, which will help reduce carbon emissions. Earlier this year, Vogel voted in favor of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which requires Dominion Energy Virginia and American Electric Power to produce their electricity from 100% renewable sources by 2045 and 2050, respectively.
“I am honored to be here and honored to have this really important investment in my district,” Vogel said.
When Browning decided to add a solar array at the car wash, he had no idea it would end up being the largest commercial-scale solar installation in the county.
“I’m glad Valley Car Wash can help the green initiative this year, the community and the state of Virginia,” Browning said. “And I want to thank Winchester-Frederick County for supporting Valley Car Wash. Without their support, this would not have been possible.”
McKechnie said he sees solar energy becoming increasingly mainstream.
Rachel Smucker, Virginia policy and development manager for Maryland-DC-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association, said solar installations like the one at Valley Car Wash “play a vital role in Virginia’s clean energy future.”
“In fact, rooftop solar is responsible for 63% of solar jobs,” Smucker said. “And that’s nationwide. Policies like the recently-enacted Virginia Clean Economy Act will help to drive more clean energy investments like this in the state and make Virginia a national hub for clean-energy jobs. So today we are celebrating strong clean energy policy, locally sourced solar energy, electricity savings for Ned and his team and local job creation.”