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 Washington, DC
There’s one thing the nation’s capital is overflowing with, and it’s not political intrigue or cherry blossom trees—it’s solar energy. Many government buildings throughout the city boast impressive solar arrays. The Department of Energy’s Forrestal headquarters building, for instance, has a solar panel setup that generates around 230,000 kWh of electricity per year.
But solar capacity here isn’t limited to public buildings alone. Grassroots renewable electricity co-ops, combined with generous government incentives have stimulated interest in solar power throughout the district, making it one of the most unique solar strategies in the country. Residents interested in going solar here have several incentives at their disposal, and the offerings aren’t limited to well-off homeowners: the city government offers low-income options, as well as strategies for renters to participate in net metering. If you live in the district, here’s what you need to know to adopt your own solar system today.
Solar Productivity in DC
While solar productivity in the district doesn’t exactly compete with that of sun-drenched southern states, DC still has some impressive numbers, reaching almost six solar hours per day in the summer months. Those levels, combined with the city’s plentiful incentives, make solar a very attractive option for residents trying to both save money and go green.
Your solar panels will still work under light snowfall and in some cases light snowfall actually makes your panels more effective because as the snow melts and slides off, it cleans your panels, making them more productive. Other research has shown that light snow can also make your panels more effective as the bright white snow helps reflect the sun’s rays. In the event of heavy snowfall–the kind that completely blocks out the sunshine–your system will stop generating power. If you can’t wait for the weather to warm up and the snow to melt, you’ll want to get a roof rake to clear off the panels. Be careful though, and perhaps consider hiring a professional, as it is dangerous to be working on your roof in slick conditions. In terms of partly-cloudy days, they have only been shown to decrease your system’s performance by 5-10% and because Washington D.C. utilizes net metering, you’ll certainly have more than enough credits from D.C.’s many sunny days to make up the difference and fully meet your power needs.
DC’s Solar Popularity
Thanks to efforts on the part of the DC SUN, a lobbying organization and network of solar co-ops, solar power is really starting to take off amongst DC residents. According to industry data, the area has installed an impressive 17 MW of solar capacity, and saw a 132 percent increase in solar installations in 2015. There’s still a lot of room to grow, however. Capacity rates now generate about enough energy to power 2,500 homes—a small fraction of residences.
DC Average Residential Electricity Use and Cost
DC residents likely find themselves mired in energy bills—at almost 14 cents per kWh, the district far exceeds the national 12 cent average. Those high costs likely explain resident’s usage rates, as well—at a mere 3,330 kWh per capita, DC locals fall far below national consumption averages. With high utility costs like those, it’s not surprising that many residents are beginning to seriously weigh the benefits of solar power. Many homeowners here could stand to benefit enormously from a new solar installation.
Installing Solar in Washington, DC
All installers in the district must hold a license for this work issued by the city government, but that doesn’t mean you have few options to choose from. In fact, there may be upwards of over 130 qualified solar installation companies in the nation’s capital, including some larger national brands like SolarCity.
Government Support in DC
A government’s stance on solar is most clearly defined by its policies and in DC that adds up to a ringing endorsement for renewable energy. In fact, DC already generates a third of its electricity from wind power—and residential solar installations are growing.
The city’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is the key here—since 2005, it has set the tone for citywide energy conversations, by enacting a renewable energy credit program and net metering standard that allow residents to meter generated solar power against their use.
Local DC Incentives
One of the advantages for residents in the District of Columbia is consistency—residents here don’t have a frustrating and confusing network of various state, local, and utility-provider incentives, each with their own qualifications and offerings. Incentives here are all local, making the process of finding them a bit more streamlined. Of course, like all US residents, Washingtonians qualify for the federal government’s Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which returns homeowners 30 percent of cost of a new solar system, as long as that system’s capacity will generate at least half of the home’s energy. To check if you qualify, complete form form 5965 along with your income taxes. That aside, here are the most important local offerings:
- Net Metering: Like most states, DC offers its solar residents an incentive in the form of net metering, where energy use is measured against generated power. There is a 1 MW capacity limit on installations; however, credits can roll over on utility bills indefinitely. The city also offers what’s known as virtual net metering—that allows residents to subscribe to buying their power from an authorized community renewable energy facility (CREF), in exchange for metered credit on their utility bills.
- Personal Property Tax Exemption: Households with solar arrays installed qualify for a 100 percent exemption from personal property taxes applied to the systems. That means residents who have solar installed reap all the benefits in property value without any of the cost.
- Solar Advantage Plus Program: This subsidy covers the installation costs of a new solar system for eligible low-income residents. Income requirements vary based on the size of the household. The maximum incentive is $10,000 for a three to four kWh capacity sized system.
- The Affordable Solar Program: The Department of Energy & Environment and the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) launched the Affordable Solar Program to help install solar panels at no cost to income-qualified District residents. The program works with DCSEU-qualified solar contractors to design and install solar panels on single-family homes owned or rented by income eligible District residents. The solar systems have the potential to offset electricity costs by as much as $500 each year. In order to qualify, homeowners or renters must meet the following eligibility requirements: