You've gotta love Virginia. The birthplace of the nation and the mother of presidents.
But sadly only the second-cousin twice removed, when it comes to harnessing clean energy from the sun.
This green jewel in the Southern U.S. may have earned its place in the history books many times over. But not (so far) in the annals of the ongoing solar revolution.
Which is a real shame. Because homeowners in Virginia can look to a wonderful sun resource, perfect for powering homes throughout the year. There are big savings to be made on bills, and plenty of planet-saving kudos too.
The problem is that the state government hasn't gotten behind efforts to switch on to the potential of solar power. So the Old Dominion drags behind many other less sunny states.
Which doesn't stop you from proudly flying the solar banner.
We know. Here at Solar Nation we've dug deep, and found those hidden seams that will help you maximize your earnings.
So how much sunshine does the average Virginian's roof collect each year? Well, it varies a little, north to south.
Up in Dale City they get around 1,500 kWh per square yard each year. Down in Danville it's more like 1,650 kWh. Richmond lies between those.
That's a lot of energy being wasted on your roof right now!
If you were to put a 5kW solar system up there to catch it all, you'd find your bill likely cut in half.
And 5kW of solar panels certainly isn't the biggest system most Virginian roofs can take. So let's have a play with the numbers to see what sort of return you'll get.
Virginia Solar Power: Check your Savings, Costs, Tax Breaks, Incentives and Rebates
Return on Investment for Residential Solar Power in Virginia
IRR. Internal Rate of Return. It sounds a little scary. But it’s just a way of rating investments. We like to work out this number when we go through our calculations, so you can compare an investment in solar panels to other investments, like stocks.
Now we've already said that Virginia doesn't have a big bag of money-spinning goodies to encourage the greening of its electricity. But even without those, the rate of return is a respectable 5.7%.
That's cool, you might say. But maybe not as important to you as the dollars saved. Now we’re talking much bigger numbers.
A 5kW solar system on a Richmond roof can help you pull in as much as $23,000 in bill savings over 25 years.
With costs for modern solar systems tumbling, you can pick up a 5 kW system for not much over $15,000. So those numbers are looking good already.
But let's look in more depth at how those benefits stack up even higher, for you—and for the planet.
We've already said that a setting up 5 kW of solar panels on you roof could cost as little as $15,000. But what do you get for those dollars?
1. For starters 19 kWh of sun-powered electricity each day that you aren't paying for.
2. That tallies up to 6,900 kWh your roof will generate for you in 12 months.
3. That's almost half of the 14,000 kWh of electricity the average Virginian home sucks up from the grid.
Yes, you read right. Your bill could be halved. Good news for you, for Virginia’s air quality, and best of all for the planet.
But what about that $15,000 outlay? It's still a big pile of green.
1. Start with your $15,000 sticker price, before tax.
2. Virginia has 6% sale tax, so we need to add that in. So we're bumped up to $15,795.
3. But here come the cuts. Firstthe federal Income Tax Credit (ITC) allows you to claim tax back at 30% of the cost. So the net cost in the first year is now a shade over $10k.
4. Then, the first 12 months will also see $680 lopped off of your bill.
5. That leaves you just $10,370 out of pocket. Much less than the cost of a car. And since when did a car earn you money and power your house?
The benefits of your outlay keep on coming in over the lifespan of those panels. That can be 30 years or more.
But let's stick to a 25-year time frame:
1. If your utility bill never rose once, you’d save $16,900. We don't need to tell you that's pretty unlikely.
2. Assume a more accurate 3% a year rate. Now you'll see those savings leap up to over $23,000.
3. Savings for the planet too. Your clean electricity means you avoid the release of 4 tons of CO2 per year.
4. That's like planting nearly 100 trees EVERY year.
And some lucky souls can claim even more benefits from their solar system.
There are utilities in Virginia who love green power so much they'll pay you a premium for any electricity you produce.
Virginia Solar Power Incentives, Tax Breaks and Rebates
The Old Dominion has a half-in, half-out sort of approach to its RPS. The state set targets for renewable energy generation in 2007. They run from 7% in 2016 to 15% in 2025.
Great news. Except that it isn’t really.
There are some exceptions, but more on those in a minute. “RPS” you say, what’s that?
What is an RPS really?
You’ll often hear the letters ‘RPS’ thrown about when talking about solar energy. But what exactly is a ‘Renewable Portfolio Standard’?
Basically, it’s a state law setting binding targets for clean energy. RPS have been really useful in getting the utilities to take renewable energy generation seriously.
When a state sets an RPS target, they’re saying that utilities must generate a certain amount of their electricity from renewable sources by a certain date.
If not, they’ll fine the power companies.
Which is a much-needed stick. After all, power companies need a push. Most still make money selling us more and more energy.
They’re not best pleased that we’re starting to generate our own power.
The threat of fines makes the utilities much keener to offer their customers incentives, rebates, and grants for their solar systems. Everyone wins.
They avoid the fine, and you get the low-cost solar power. Without an RPS, utilities are less likely to help with solar or wind power for their customers.
Virginia tax credit
There’s no income tax credit (ITC) offered by the state in Virginia. That doesn’t stop you from claiming your 30% federal ITC, of course.
That will slash the initial cost of your solar system in one swoop. Better still, there’s no cap on the federal ITC either, so you can go large on solar if you want.
Are there any Rebates for Solar Power in Virginia?
This is another area where Virginia is half in and half out. The state doesn’t offer any rebates for newly installed systems itself, but you can get quite a hefty refund in some counties.
Virginia Tax Exemptions
This is one area where Virginia got onto things early on. In the 1970’s the state passed laws that let municipalities to exempt solar power from being counted for property taxes.
That’s because a solar-powered house making its own electricity is worth a lot more than one without. Especially as that power solar keeps on being made decades after it was installed.
It’s not an amount to be sniffed at, either.
The total boost to your property price usually matches the electricity savings you’ll be making. So your house could be worth as much as $23,000 more!
And with the property tax exemption, you get to avoid being taxed for helping save the planet.
What you can’t avoid is the state sale tax. You’ll have a levy of 6% added to the sticker price, and no exemptions are planned at this time.
Virginia Electricity Rates
Electricity costs in Virginia have generally sat a little below the national average. In 2015 the state-wide rate was 11.4 cents per kWh. That compares to the 12.5 c/kWh rate paid nationally by U.S. homeowners.
Those low rates aren’t staying low, though. Since 2005 we’ve seen a rise of 40%. That’s makes the need to move over to solar so even more pressing.
The sooner you get those panels on your roof, the more rate hikes you can dodge. And the more money you’ll save.
Is there Net Metering in Virginia?
Virginia has managed to put together a decent enough package when it comes to Net Metering. Under Net Metering, any electricity that you don’t use gets sent back onto the grid.
Some state’s will credit this electricity at the retail rate you pay. In Virginia you get credited at the “avoided cost” rate.
This actually changes on a regular basis, but will usually be a lot less than the retail rate you pay yourself. One good aspect of the Net Metering here in Virginia is that any excess generation can be carried over from one year to the next, without limits.
What's Net Metering anyways?
Net Metering is a vital part of making solar power work for homeowners. It means even when the power you generate doesn’t match the power you use, little is wasted.
That’s important because the electricity your system produces varies as the sun moves round the sky. When the sun is highest in summer you may actually produce more electricity than you use.
Rather than letting your spare power go to waste, Net Metering means your meter effectively spins backwards. And as it spins, it earns money for you.
Your utility has to pay you for the energy you’re supplying to them under Net Metering. Often this is at the retail electricity rate, the rate you normally pay them. Not bad at all.
Welcome to the wonderful world of energy independence!
Are there 0 down payment financing Options in Virginia?
Yes, the whole range of zero-down payment options are available in Virginia—from loans to leases to power purchase agreements (PPAs).
These are increasingly popular, and offer a great way to leverage your solar investment—or simply to power your home with green energy without spending big wedges of greenback.
Each has advantages and disadvantages, though. Let’s take a look, to see which might best suit you.
Solar Lease in Virginia?
Leasing works wonders for those who can’t tap the equity in their home for a loan. Or those who can’t access the upfront cash for a purchase. A lease lets you put $0 down to get those panels on your roof. Then you watch the savings roll in.
One thing to check is your performance-guarantee clause. This is needed, as you’ll be paying a fixed fee every month, rather than for each kWh of electricity produced.
In some ways that’s great, because the fee doesn’t change according to the power the panels produce.
But it does mean that you need to know that those panels will keep pumping out the juice for their whole lifespan.
A performance-guarantee clause on your lease makes sure of that.
Solar Power Loan?
If you’d prefer to own your solar panels, for only a small (or even no) outlay, then a solar loan makes sense.
This way you’ll get better rates of return, especially if you can tap a home-equity line of credit. You’ll soon be solar powered, and you won’t have to raid your cash savings.
You will, however, be on the line for any maintenance or cleaning your panels will need.
PPA Option on Virginia?
This is the other approach for going solar with no (or little) upfront cost. PPAs are similar to leases. But rather than paying a fee to lease the panels from a third-party, you’ll only pay for the power that they produce.
No hassles of ownership. No worries about performance. And no big down-payments.
You will find the savings are quite a lot less than with purchases or loans. But remember that you’ve put no money down to earn those savings. That makes for pretty impressive rates of return!
What is a PPA?
A Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, is an agreement between you and your solar panel provider. You provide them with the roof for the panels. They provide you with power at a guaranteed price.
Like a lease, you’ll benefit from solar power without worrying about details like planning, installation, equipment upgrades, maintenance, and cleaning.
Most PPAs also have an option for you to buy the system at the end of the contract, which can add real value to your home.
These escalators are a reasonable way for the solar panel company to take gradual performance and maintenance issues into account over its lifetime.
Just make sure your PPA escalator isn’t too steep. It should be much less than expected utility rate rises.
Is there Feed In Tariff in Virginia?
Dare we say it—it’s another half in/half out for this one again, here in Virginia.
There’s no true state-wide Feed In Tariff that sees you being paid extra for producing power for the grid.
But there are a couple of performance-based payment schemes offered by local utilities that are similar to Feed In Tariffs.
First up is Dominion Power, with its Solar Purchase Program. The good news is that you’ll get paid a guaranteed rate of 15 c/kWh for all solar power you supply to the grid.
That’s much higher than with Net Metering.
The bad news is that you’ll have to pay for a separate meter, you won’t be able to use Net Metering, and the scheme currently only lasts until 2018.
And then there’s TVA again. They have a scheme called the Green Power Providers Program. If you’re in their area, you can sign up to a 20-year contract, where they’ll buy your electricity at the retail rate.
That’s much better than the rate you get from Net Metering. And you’ll even get a premium of $0.02/kWh for the first 10 years.
Leasing vs Purchasing: What's best for Virginia Homeowners?
As with many things, the choice between leasing and purchasing depends on how you see risk and reward. And on how much skin you want in the solar game.
Leasing works well for the risk adverse. For those who want to help clean our energy, and cut pollution, but without taking on the hassles (and big initial outlay) of purchase.
Either way, as things stand in Virginia, the rates of return won’t be stellar. They’ll be best if you have the cash to buy outright. A lease will also have you making savings of course.
Just not as big.
But remember that the biggest winners are clean air and a healthy planet.
What is the Solar Panel Installation Process in Virginia?
The solar installation process starts with home visit by an energy assessment team. They’ll talk to you about your bills, what solar panel system is the best for you, and the financial options available.
Once they’ve got the measure of your place, and found out exactly what your needs are, they’ll be provide you with a fully detailed PV quote.
This will highlight potential tax rebates, breaks, and incentives that may be available to you. They’ll also give you detailed breakdown of the savings you can expect to make.
Once you’ve agreed and signed your agreement, the solar installation team can schedule a date for transforming your house from energy sink into a solar-powered energy producer!
The installation process usually only takes three to four days.
1. Fill in our simple solar form 2. Receive quotes from the best local solar suppliers 3. Choose the best money-saving solar option for you 4. Once your system is installed, just sit back, relax—and watch the savings roll in
1. Fill in our simple solar form
2. Receive quotes from the best local solar suppliers
3. Choose the best money-saving solar option for you
4. Once your system is installed, just sit back, relax—and watch the savings roll in
Virginia is a state which proves that solar power can be a nice little earner even without help from the government. Rates of return are solid, and savings measured in the tens of thousands of dollars.
It’s also a wonderfully beautiful state whose rolling forests and pristine bays can only benefit from the move to cleaner energy.
Put panels on you roof and you’ll be slashing emissions that cause health problems, drive global warming, and cost the economy millions.
Save the planet? Save your bills? Either way it’s win-win.