Virginia is ranked 11th out of all US states in total installed solar power capacity, and the state’s solar industry is only expected to continue growing. There are more than 18,000 existing certified solar installations in the state, including thousands of residential photovoltaic (PV) installations, while major businesses such as Amazon, Ikea and Prologies have also installed large-scale commercial solar installations for their facilities and offices in Virginia.
Part of this rapid solar adoption can be attributed to declining solar costs in the US as solar technology improves in efficiency, which has led to a 45% drop in prices for solar modules and other related equipment in the last 5 years. 6% of all electricity consumed in Virginia was derived from renewable sources in 2019, a third of which came from the 2,500 MW of solar power installed in the state. The state plans to further increase this solar capacity to 6,453 MW across the next 5 years as well, more than doubling its current capacity if everything falls into place and placing Virginia as the 4th ranked state on the US solar rankings by 2025.
What you should know about Solar Energy in Virginia
The electrical grid in Virginia is maintained by two main electrical utilities: Dominion Virginia Power & AEP Appalachian Power. These utilities charge an average of 12.07 ¢/kWh for electricity in Virginia, 7.78% lower than the US average.
However, you might be surprised to learn that the typical monthly electric bills for homeowners in Virginia are actually 17.26% higher than the national average, amounting to around $135 a month. In fact, the state as a whole consumes two-and-a-half times as much power as it produces! This is because an ordinary Virginia household consumes 1,122 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month, significantly higher than the US average of approximately 877 kWh a month.
While lower electricity costs can directly cause higher consumption of cheaper power, Virginia’s hot summers and cold winters also mean that residents need to devote significant amounts of power towards indoor cooling and heating. These high utility bills mean that homeowners in Virginia can greatly benefit from installing rooftop PV systems for their home or business, which can partially or even completely offset these expensive bills depending on the scale of the installed system.
Is it worth going solar in Virginia?
Going solar can be hugely beneficial for Virginia home and business owners due to the state’s higher than average electricity bills, especially considering the generous state and federal solar incentives available to state residents. Promoting solar adoption is also one of the main reasons why Virginia passed the Clean Economy Act, which set an ambitious goal of generating 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.
Monthly electrical bills in Virginia are also higher than that in almost every other state in the South Atlantic US. We mentioned above that Virginia residents pay almost $136 a month in electricity bills. Putting that in perspective, these bills are 38.72% more expensive than those in Washington DC, and up to 63% more expensive than in states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Depending on your exact location within the state, a medium to large-scale rooftop PV system with 9 – 10 kW DC of capacity is likely the perfect size for Virginia homeowners. While output would vary slightly for each individual property and region, a PV system of this scale can generate around 13,220 – 13,689 kWh of electricity per year, which is just enough to supply the 13,464 kWh of electricity consumed each year on average by a single Virginia household.
Now let’s run the numbers on how much a PV system can save you: A solar generation system of 9-10kW capacity can cost up to $23,220 – $25,500 in Virginia, before solar incentives are applied. After applying the solar federal tax credit, the overall price will can be reduced by up to 26%, down to $17,156 – $18,863. Going by the state’s electricity costs, rooftop PV systems in Virginia generally have a payback period of 10.5 – 11.6 years based on these estimates.
In other words, a 9-10kW PV system in Virginia can help you save as much as $1,625.04 each year by reducing your electricity bill. Considering that PV systems have an average lifespan of 25 years, you would have saved up to $40,626 when your system retires, which is a more than double return on your initial investment cost!
With Virginia’s Clean Economy Act looking set to usher in a solar revolution for the state, there is no better time than the present for homeowners to go solar. The US-wide federal solar tax credit is also set to expire soon, with the awarded credit dropping to only 22% in 2023 and disappearing altogether from 2024 onwards. We recommend installing your residential solar energy system by 2021 or 2022 to get the most out of this incentive.
How much energy will your solar system generate?
Virginia receives excellent levels of solar radiation, making it an ideal state for solar power. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) database, Virginia receives radiation levels of 3.26 to 6.60 kWh per square meter per day depending on the season and your exact geographical location within the state.
These radiation levels translate into 3.26 – 6.60 daily hours of maximum electricity production for your solar modules. Depending on your location and the characteristics of your rooftop, a 9 kW DC rooftop PV system can generate up to 12,879 – 13,993 kWh in AC power annually, while a 10 kW system can provide between 13,128 and 14,137 kWh of electricity.
This means that a rooftop PV system of around 9-10 kW in scale can offset almost your entire annual electricity bill, saving your household an average of $1,625.04 each year in electrical utility payments.
Payment options for your PV system in Virginia
Another great thing about going solar are the many different payment options available to you. Many choices also allow you to fully own your solar energy system right from the get-go, which makes you eligible for most solar incentives, saving you thousands of dollars in the long run. Here are some of the more popular payment methods for solar in Virginia.
Paying for your PV system upfront in cash can be a good option if you have the funds available. Doing so means that you avoid paying interest on potential loans, and this also choice makes you fully eligible for all federal, state and local solar incentives which require you to own your own residential PV system.
There are various financial institutions in Virginia which offer loans for financing residential PV systems, and the terms offered by each loan differ. You should do your own research into which loan best suits your needs, but some popular options to start with is the Fannie Mae Green Financing loan or the FHA PowerSaver Loan, which both offer low-interest rates of 4.99% – 9.99% and a payment period of up to 20 years. Your solar installer is also likely able to recommend loans which they find to work best for their customers.
Solar leasing refers to an agreement made between you and the owner of a solar PV system, either installed nearby or directly on your property. You pay a set monthly rate to this solar lessor for the right to use solar power generated by the PV system, allowing you to use solar electricity without needing to pay any upfront costs. The downside to solar leasing is that you do not actually own the PV system, however, disqualifying you from most solar incentives in Virginia.
Community Solar or Shared Solar Program
In short, Virginia’s community solar program allows state residents living in any type of residence to purchase electric power from a shared solar PV facility. These types of communal solar programs can be found in many different states, but the specific terms differed might be different. We’ll be going into more details of Virginia’s version of communal solar in the section below.
What are the solar incentives in Virginia?
Purchasing a rooftop solar power generation system in Virginia makes you eligible for several local and federal solar incentives. Here are the main incentives which Virginia residents can apply for, as well as an explanation of some of the relevant laws and programs surrounding solar power in the state.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit is a generous US-wide solar incentive which can reduce your solar installation costs significantly. 26% of your total solar installation costs would be returned to you in the form of a federal income tax credit. If this the credit exceeds your tax liability that year, you can roll this credit forwards and apply it the next tax year. This incentive would be reduced to 22% for PV systems installed in 2023, and removed entirely from 2024 onwards.
Residential Property Tax Exemption
Renovations and home improvements can increase the value of your home, and with it the amount of property tax that you pay. However, the Virginia Residential Property Tax Exemption can partially or fully exempt you from any local property tax increases directly due to installing a rooftop PV system. The amount which can be exempted differs between different regions of Virginia. Contact your local building inspection officials or local solar installer for more specific details on how this exemption is applied for your region!
Virginia Solar Rights
Virginia’s Solar Rights are a set of laws which forbid community associations, such as HOAs, from establishing rules that forbid homeowners from installing solar on their own property. Keep in mind that while installing solar PV cannot be directly forbidden, a HOA can still enforce rules which restrict the the size, location, and manner of the PV installation.
VA Net Metering program
Virginia has a robust Net Metering Program which plays a large role in making residential solar PV systems a good investment in the state. You are eligible for this incentive if you are a customer of a investor-owned utility or an electric cooperative, and your installed PV system is 20 kW DC or smaller in capacity.
Under this program, you will receive electricity credits for the excess generated power that your solar system produces and exports back to the local electrical grid. These credits are first used to offset future electric use in later months, and can be continuously rolled over. If you have any excess electricity credits at the end of your 12-month billing cycle, you can opt to roll those credits over to the next year or to receive payment from your electrical utility, equal to how much your credits would be worth at the full retail rate.
Depending on how well-suited your property is for generating solar electricity, this generous incentive means that it might even be a good idea in some cases to install solar expected to generate more electricity than what you use. This way, you can securely offset your entire electrical bill and earn a little extra income from exporting electricity.
Guide to Community Solar in Virginia
Like we touched on above, Virginia has its own state Community Solar program aimed at making solar energy accessible to more residents, regardless of income level or housing type. In late 2020, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) established the rules for the Shared Community Solar Projects as described in Senate Bill 629. This bill gives customers of Dominion, a major utility company in Virginia, access to solar power by allowing them to purchase electricity from a common solar facility in their neighborhood. Previously, similar community solar schemes had only been offered in Virginia by a few specific electric cooperatives to their customers.
With this new program, utility customers of Dominion Virginia will be able to use solar energy even if they do not have a suitable rooftop for PV modules, or lack the means to finance a solar installation. Read on to find out how exactly this program works and what you need to do to subscribe.
How do Shared Community Solar Projects work?
Shared community solar energy systems might be installed on apartment buildings, office buildings, industrial parks, or any other locations with the sufficient space and solar resources to support small solar farms not exceeding 5,000 kilowatts in capacity. These facilities will then sell the renewable solar energy they generate to Dominion customers across Virginia.
Customers of Shared Community Solar Projects can then subscribe to these PV installations, paying for a portion of their total output. This electricity will be directly credited to the customer’s utility bill, similar to how excess generation credits are applied in Virginia’s current net metering system. Subscribed customers will then be able to virtually use solar energy without needing to pay upfront for a PV installation and actually hosting a physical solar energy system on their property.
Energy purchased via subscribing to carved-out portions of these community solar projects will likely be cheaper than current retail utility rates, though the program is still only in the planning stages and rates have not yet been set. These community solar projects are planned to be implemented by 2023.
Who can participate in the Shared Community Solar Projects?
As established in SB 629, customers of Dominion Virginia are eligible to buy generated energy from shared community solar projects. This allows every customer of Dominion Energy to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without requiring a suitable rooftop for PV modules.
While the bill does not exclude any residents from participating in the shared community solar projects, it does have a provision which states that 30% of customers must be reserved for low-income residents. This requirement is aimed at making the bill more inclusive, allowing solar energy to be enjoyed by everyone.
Depending on the final rules established by the Dominion Virginia and the state, some users might end up having to pay a minimum bill to take part in the program. In the case that this rule is adopted, the low-income customers required to take up 30% of the program’s capacity would be exempt. Dominion Virginia is currently pushing the state’s legislature to set a $75 minimum charge for participating in the project, while solar advocacy groups argue that a minimum charge of $8 to $10 would be more appropriate.
How can you enroll in the Shared Community Solar Project?
While the community solar projects described above have not yet launched, you can pre-enroll right now in a special Community Solar pilot program! Participation in this project is only available on a first-come-first-served basis. If you’re a Virginia resident and a Dominion customer, follow these steps to pre-enroll in the program:
- Sign in to your account at Dominion Energy.
- Go to the Energy Use & Conservation section.
- Select Renewable Energy Programs.
- Select the pre-enrollment option, and wait to see if you’re offered the chance to subscribe to the closest shared community solar project!
Keep in mind that the rates for the pilot program work slightly differently compared to how the program would eventually be implemented. Under this program, customers pay the same retail rate for solar electricity as normal electricity, plus a 2 cents per kWh extra charge. Instead of subscribing to a portion of a solar PV facility’s monthly output, customers instead directly decide exactly how much electricity they want to purchase through this program each month.
Best Solar Companies in Virginia: Our top choices
Picking the right solar company is key to maximizing your savings from solar. To help you pick out the best company for your Virginia home, we’ve compiled a list below of the best solar installers in the region. Here are some of the main criteria we used to decide on which companies to shortlist.
- Company Reputation – We looked at certified customer reviews and average ratings across different review platforms to select solar companies with a good reputation amongst customers.
- Solar project experience – We considered which installers have had the most success and experience with a wide variety of different solar PV systems.
- Brands and product quality – High quality solar products are the backbone of any good solar PV system. We looked at what solar products each company installs, and whether or not they were using the best products available.
- Partnership and certifications – Manufacturer partnerships and certifications by organizations such as NABCEP are generally a good indicator of expertise.
- Warranties offered – The best solar companies are willing to put their money where their mouth is, and back up their work with generous warranty coverages. We looked into and compared the warranties offered by each company to find out which installer has got your back should anything should go wrong with your system after installation.
Blue Raven Solar
Blue Raven Solar is ranked as one of the top solar installers in the entire country, including in Virginia. The company has performed thousands of high-quality certified installations across the US, making them one of the most experienced solar installers in the country.
Blue Raven Solar is headquartered in Utah, and has physical office locations in nine US states. Their service area extends to 19 different states, including Virginia.
Licensing and Certifications
Blue Raven Solar holds an electrical contractor license for Virginia, and the company employs NABCEP-certified PV installation professionals.
Blue Raven Solar has previously made INC. magazines list of the top 5,000 fastest growing businesses in America, and it’s not hard to see why. Despite only being founded in 2014, the solar installer has quickly gained the trust of customers across the US, and grown from only a 3-person team into one with a workforce of over 1,300 today.
Blue Raven provides high-quality solar installations using high-efficiency monocrystalline PV modules and top-quality Enphase microinverters. The company also provides a 10-year workmanship warranty for each installation.
Blue Raven Solar has received vast number of online reviews across different platforms, and most customers only have good things to say about the company. They hold a high 4.64-rating on Solar Reviews after more than 1,400 customer reviews, and their Utah headquarters has also received a 4.4-star rating after 562 reviews.
Blue Raven Solar is also accredited by the BBB, and have an impressive 4.24 customer rating on the site. While the installer has also collected a few negative reviews from upset customers complaining about faulty systems or overly-aggressive salesmen, Blue Raven Solar responds quickly to almost every single negative review and often offers to fix customer issues when appropriate.
Solar SME, Inc.
Founded in 2011, Solar SME is a multi-state solar installer focused on providing their customers with a smooth transition towards using renewable solar energy. The company is able to take care of the entire solar installation process for its customers, from the initial design of your system to applying for the relevant permits and incentives.
Solar SME is headquartered in Texas, but the company also has office locations in Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Their huge service area extends across nine US states, including Maryland, lllinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas.
Certificates and Licensing
Solar SME holds an Alternative Energy Systems and Electrical Contractor license for Virginia, which qualifies them to fully install all parts of a residential solar PV system. The company also employs NABCEP-certified PV Installation Professionals, though none of these certified employees are currently listed as being attached to their Virginia location.
Solar SME promises to get a solar PV up and generating power in less than 12 weeks for each of their customers. While the installer has only been in the industry for a relatively short seven years, their rapid expansion into multiple different states serves as a testament to the company’s great solar installation quality.
Not only can the installer help design and install a customized solar PV system for your home, they can also assist you in installing your own PV system by providing consulting services. The company primarily uses top-quality products from leading brands such as Enphase, LG, Panasonic and Canadian Solar in their installed PV systems.
Solar SME has received generally favorable customer reviews online. They hold an average rating of 4.4-stars for their Texas HQ on Google after 95 reviews, along with a 4.31-rating on Solar Reviews based on 22 customer reviews.
The company also has a great 4.72-star customer rating on the BBB, along with an A+ accreditation awarded by the site itself. Many customers praised the company for having polite, knowledgeable salesman able to walk them through and keep them updated on the solar process.
Solar Energy World
Founded in 2009, Solar Energy World offers solar installation, leasing and PPA services to customers across multiple states in the Eastern United States.
Solar Energy World is headquartered in Maryland, but the solar company also has locations in Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Florida. They are able to serve customers in many more states, such as Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington D.C.
Licensing and Certification
Solar Energy World holds an Alternative Energy Systems Contractor license in Virginia, and also employs NABCEP-certified PV Associates and PV Technical Sales Professionals.
Solar Energy World made it to number 17 on the list of the Top Residential Solar Contractors in the US by Solar Power World magazine in 2021, and the company doesn’t plan on slowing down. Despite having operations across multiple different states, Solar Energy World still insists on doing all work in-house and hiring no subcontractors. A Master Electrician supervises each installation carried out by the company, minimizing the risk of issues popping up with your system further down the line.
The company has also partnered with multiple different financial institutions to offer a wide range of different solar financing packages to customers, including solar leases and PPAs.
Solar Energy World has received many glowing customer reviews online. The company has an incredibly high 4.8-star rating on Solar Reviews even after 230 customer reviews, and also boasts a 4.6-star rating on Google with 130 reviews.
Solar Energy World is accredited with an A+ on the BBB as well, though it has received 5 complaints on the site. 3 complaints have been resolved, with one customer praising the installer for going “above and beyond” to fix his issue.
ION Solar is devoted to making the solar installation process as simple as possible for its customers. They’ve installed over 100 million watts of solar for homeowners across the US, and are currently ranked as the nation’s 4th largest residential solar installer.
ION Solar is headquartered in Utah, but the company has office locations in eight other US states, including in Virginia. They are able to serve customers across these eight states of Colorado
Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Licensing and Certification
ION Solar holds an Electrical Contractor and Alternative Energy Systems Contractor license for Virginia. The company also counts NABCEP-certified PV Installation Professionals among its employees.
Founded in 2013, Utah-based Ion Solar has quickly grown to become one of the largest solar installers in the country with locations and operations in 8 US states. The company takes pride in making going solar a seamless and easy process for customers, taking care of all necessary permits and paperwork along with designing and installing a custom solar energy system.
Ion Solar uses high-quality products in their installed systems, such as Enphase inverters and Trina solar modules. You can also choose to sign a solar lease or PPA with the company, in addition to purchasing a residential PV system outright.
Ion Solar is one of the most prolific solar companies in the US today, which is also reflected in the massive amount of online reviews they have received. The company has a high 4.42-star rating on Solar Reviews with 527 reviews, and their Virginia location also boasts a good 4.4-star rating on Google after 211 reviews.
Ion Solar does have a worse reputation on the BBB, however, where it holds a 3.04-star customer rating based on 84 reviews. They’ve also received 82 complaints on the site, most of which concern problems and delays with the installation process as well as occasional miscommunication between Ion’s sales and installation team.
Sunpro Solar has more than twelve years of experience in the solar industry under its belt, and is currently ranked as the second largest installer of residential solar energy systems in the US.
Sunpro Solar’s corporate headquarters are located in California, but the company has offices in 21 different US states, including in Virginia. They are able to serve customers all throughout these regions.
Licensing and Certification
Sunpro Solar holds an Alternative Energy Systems and Electrical Contractor license for Virginia. The company also hires PV Installation Professionals.
Sunpro Solar was founded in 2008 by US Army veteran Marc Jones, and today the company has helped more than 25,000 customers across the US reap the benefits of residential solar. Despite the company’s rapid growth, Sunpro still insists on using no subcontractors and handling all solar work in-house.
All of the company’s installed PV systems are also backed up by generous 25-year labor and performance guarantee warranties.
Sunpro Solar has received generally favorable online reviews. They boast an impressive 4.7-star rating on Google for their California headquarters after 62 total reviews, and also have an above-average 3.98-rating on Solar Reviews based on 203 customer reviews.
But while Sunpro Solar is accredited with an A on the BBB, it only has a 2.6-star customer rating on the site with 93 reviews. The company has also received 129 complaints on the platform, with only 35 resolved. Many complaints involved customers complaining about non-stop calls from Sunpro’s sales team, and delays in installing solar for their home.
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