How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar Power in Virginia
Virginia is for lovers—more specifically, it’s for lovers of clean energy! With enough solar installed to power over 2,000 homes, and many new utility-scale projects proposed for the end of the decade, Virginia solar power is an industry on the rise, evident in the area’s businesses, government offices, and increasingly, in its homes, as well.
While not as sun-baked as some other states, Virginia still holds its own in solar productivity, making it a great place to benefit from a household solar energy system. Meanwhile, the area’s high average utility costs mean that Virginians could definitely use a little help saving money on their energy bills, and that’s just what you’ll get with most solar installations. If you’d like to look into solar energy for your Virginia home, be sure to take a look at the guide below, which will walk you through the basics of installing a solar array in your home in the Old Dominion.
Solar Productivity in Virginia
Ask most people from outside the mid-Atlantic what kind of weather is typical for Virginia, and you’ll get a big question mark. There’s a good reason for the confusion—with warm summers and cool winters, weather in the Old Dominion is generally not known for its extremes. However, muggy summer humidity and high temperatures, particularly in the tidewater regions in the southeast, may make the warmer months uncomfortable but they also demonstrate good potential for solar installations. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assessed the 50 states for their solar productivity, found that Virginia has a UV index level of 0.87. That puts Virginia 14th among the rest of the nation for solar intensity. Solar arrays installed in this area can generally produce an average 5 to 6 kilowatt hours per day, particularly in the southern parts of the state—an average that can put a dent in your energy expenses, to say the least.
Solar Popularity in Virginia
Solar is still in its infancy in Virginia, but it’s definitely a growing industry. Lukewarm incentives and state renewable goals have kept solar from blossoming into booming business thus far—however, a reported $48 million was invested in solar projects over 2015, according to industry estimates, making solar a bright spot on Virginia’s future.
Average Virginia Residential Electricity Use and Cost
High summer humidity and icy winter chill make Virginia the perfect storm for heating and cooling costs—residents in this area used many more kilowatt hours of power per month than most of the rest of the U.S., coming in well above 1,100 kilowatt hours per month on average in 2014, compared to the national average of 911. Thankfully, residents in the Old Dominion pay slightly less than the average for their electricity, although not quite low enough to even out costs on their energy bills—the average Virginia household pays almost 20 dollars more a month for energy than the national average. That means that residents here could definitely stand to save a little bit on those high electricity bills, and investing in a solar energy system is one way to do just that.
Installing Solar in Virginia
There are dozens of solar installers working in Virginia, most of them operating in the Northern Virginia and Richmond area. Contractors working on solar arrays will need to comply with the state’s licensing requirements, so make sure any installers you choose can legally work on your home. However, if you’re hoping to go with a national installation company, you’ll have to wait—those companies do not operate in Virginia.
Virginia State Solar Support
Virginia is a land in transition, and that shift is evident in its solar energy policies. No longer a sleepy southern state, the Old Dominion has become packed with bustling metropolitan areas and polished suburbs housing overflow from the District of Columbia. That enormous growth spurt has meant finding additional energy resources for residents—fast—and solar may just be one of the key ingredients.
Although solar policy in Virginia is somewhat neutered (for instance, the state’s renewable portfolio standard which is a set of goals for future clean energy purchases is voluntary rather than required), there is some evidence that interest in solar is growing throughout the state. Recently, a local solar LLC applied for a permit to construct a massive solar installation outside of Richmond. A similar project led by Dominion Power is slighted for construction to the north in Fauquier County.
Virginia’s sunny skies make it a prime candidate for solar arrays, and with panel prices dropping and efficiency rates rising, it may only be a matter of time before this alternative energy method dominates rooftops throughout the area. In the meantime, there are several incentives on offer from the state government and local utilities that residents can use to help offset the cost of solar equipment and save money on their energy bills.
Virginia State Solar Incentives
While not overwhelming, Virginia does provide a few respectable solar incentives to make photovoltaic systems more attractive to area residents. Here are the most lucrative of those offerings:
Net Metering: Solar households in Virginia can opt to participate in the state’s net metering program, an incentive that credits grid-connected homeowners for excess energy that they return to the grid. Residents are credited at a rate equal to 1 percent of Virginia’s peak load for the previous year, as forecasted based off initial projections. Customers may elect to roll over any excess credits on their utility bills indefinitely, or they can request the utility to pay them for credits at the utility’s avoided cost rate—essentially, the rate that the utility would pay to generate each kilowatt hour of power themselves. Systems may not be larger than 20 kilowatts in order to qualify.
Residential Property Tax Exemption for Solar: Solar equipment tends to raise property values—and property taxes along with it. While Virginia does not require all municipalities to offer an exemption from any property taxes generated by the installation of solar equipment, it has passed legislation providing this option to local governments. Many areas comply and your local building inspection officials should be able to tell you if the exemption applies to you.
In addition, Virginians can benefit from a national solar incentive, as well. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit pays homeowners 30 percent of the cost of a solar energy system, as long as said system is large enough to generate over half the home’s energy. To apply for the rebate, complete IRS form 5695 along with your federal income taxes.
Local Virginia Solar Incentives
There are also several local incentives available from area utilities to help save money when you make the switch to solar. Here are the details of those programs:
Tennessee Valley Authority Green Power Providers Program: Some utility companies in Virginia are served by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and residents who are customers of those providers are eligible to participate in this program, which offers a rebate and a production-based incentive for homeowners who install solar energy systems on their property. The initial rebate for installation is $1,000, and thereafter, the homeowner can expect to receive a small payment for every kilowatt hour of power they generate, worth the retail energy rate plus a premium. In 2015, that premium was set at $0.02 per kilowatt. After 10 years of ownership, the utility stops paying the premium, and only purchases energy at the retail rate.
Dominion Virginia Power Solar Purchase Program: Residents serviced by Dominion Virginia Power have the opportunity to participate in the utility’s solar purchasing program. While currently in pilot phase, the program allows solar customers to sell excess energy back to the utility at a rate of $0.15 per kilowatt hour, with a five year contract. Visit the program website for more information.