Installing Solar Panels In Virginia: Is It Worth It?
Updated: Jun 13
Installing Solar Panels In Virginia: Is It Worth It?
Virginia is a top state for solar power adoption, partially because of its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). In fact, it is a leader in solar PV installations, with 5.6% of its electricity coming from solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Virginia was among the top 10 solar power-generating states in 2022, and there is strong demand for residential and commercial solar installers. A sunny climate combined with solar incentives means that most solar projects have a relatively short payback period.
Expanding into the Virginia market could be a wise move if you have a solar company. From Virginia Beach and Norfolk to the Washington, D.C., suburbs and Roanoke, there is a strong demand for solar professionals to complete residential and commercial installations. In this article, we will explore net metering programs, tax incentives, and how to help Virginians reduce the use of fossil fuels with a solar panel system.
Factors To Consider Before Going Solar
Many homeowners and businesses want to know if installing a rooftop solar array is a smart investment and how much they will save on their electric bills. Although Virginia is a leader in solar energy adoption, not all properties are ideal.
Solar Potential of a Property
It’s essential to consider shading and roof orientation when siting a solar panel system during a solar site survey. In addition, creating accurate projections for their solar energy generation that consider shading and solar orientation is critical for potential customers to make an informed decision.
Also, if the home or business needs a new roof or electrical panel, completing this before installing the solar power system is helpful. Likewise, if the project is located in an area with a homeowners association, determine if your clients need approval before going solar. Skipping this essential step could cause your client to incur fines and possibly even force them to remove the solar system.
Another factor is the solar irradiation in the local area. However, Virginia has a sunny climate, and the whole state has adequate solar resources to justify installing solar panels.
PV System Size
Virginia has a net metering program for customers of investor-owned utility companies (Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power) and electric cooperatives. Ideally, a solar system will generate all or the vast majority of the home or business’s electricity to take maximum advantage of net metering. Refer to utility bills to determine how much electricity is consumed on the property annually.
Electricity Bill Savings
Accurate estimates for how much a home or business owner can save are critical for projecting the system's payback period. The average cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in Virginia is 14.74 cents, but this does vary by the sector. Electricity prices in Virginia are currently a bit lower than the national average of 15.85 cents per kWh.
Some home and business owners need solar financing to purchase a photovoltaic system. So, discussing solar loans and other financing options can help you achieve a higher closing rate. There are some C-PACE programs available in the Commonwealth for businesses and non-profits. In addition, some solar installers offer solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs) with no upfront cost to customers.
Average Cost Of Solar Panels In Virginia
The solar energy system's cost depends on the installation's size and the average cost per watt. Projects with energy storage capacity will commonly have a higher cost than systems without solar batteries.
Residential Solar Projects
The average cost per watt of a residential solar energy system in the U.S. is $2.77, but the average cost in Virginia is about $3.01, according to EnergySage. The average U.S. household uses about 10,632 kWh of electricity annually, but Virginia homes historically tend to consume a bit more. Therefore, many Virginia households will need a solar system that is at least 7 kW, which costs around $21,070 or more before incentives.
Utility-scale Solar Farms
These solar panel installations have a much lower cost per watt than residential projects. According to National Renewable Energy Laboratory data, fixed-tilt solar farms had a cost per watt below $1 in 2020, and solar farms with one-axis trackers had a cost just above $1 per watt.
Virginia Solar Incentives, Payment Programs And More
There are several local and federal solar incentives in Virginia that make solar electricity more cost-effective for homeowners and businesses.
Virginia State Incentives
The State of Virginia offers solar incentives to make solar power systems more affordable. These programs help reduce the property taxes incurred from owning a solar system, produce a new revenue stream for generating renewable energy, and reduce energy bills with solar credits.
Solar Property Tax Exemption
Virginia has both residential and commercial solar property tax exemptions, so your customers won’t need to pay more property taxes due to a solar energy system if they meet program requirements. As of 2023, home solar systems up to 25 kW can qualify for a partial or full property tax exemption. The rules for the commercial property tax exemption vary depending on the type of organization and size.
In Virginia, utility companies must meet sustainability goals. Therefore, the state has an SREC program for residential and commercial solar systems of 1000 kW or less. For every megawatt of electricity the system generates, your customers can earn one credit.
The price of SRECs varies depending on supply and demand, and your customers must register their system and sign up with a broker to take advantage of the Virginia SREC market income. Often, solar installers help fill out the required paperwork to make it easier for customers to enroll.
These programs enable solar system owners to feed surplus power to the electric grid and receive solar credits on their energy bills. These credits can then offset home energy use when the solar panels aren’t producing enough electricity. To qualify for net metering, it's essential to fill out interconnection paperwork, which many solar companies complete on behalf of their customers.
Federal Incentives Available To Virginia Homeowners And Businesses
The investment tax credit (ITC), also known as the federal solar tax credit, can lower the net cost of a solar panel system by 30%. This includes the cost of all solar equipment, such as solar modules, inverters, racking systems, wiring, and a solar battery. Therefore, a $20,000 solar energy system can qualify for up to a $6,000 federal tax credit. It’s important to note that a tax credit lowers the amount of taxes you owe after filing. It will not directly reduce the cost of the solar system.
However, there are some limitations to the ITC. For example, residential PV systems must be for a primary or secondary home, and your clients must have a sufficient tax liability to use this solar incentive.
Solar Panels Can Make A Lot Of Sense In Virginia
Many Virginia homeowners and business owners want to transition to clean energy sources and reduce their carbon footprints to slow climate change. Virginia solar customers have numerous solar incentives available that decrease the total cost of going solar and boost energy bill savings.
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