Virginia is a rapidly growing state within the solar industry, ranking as the 11th best one on the ranking. This state has over 18,000 certified solar installations, including thousands of residential photovoltaic (PV) installations and some large retailer installations performed by Amazon, Ikea, and Prologis. Virginia has an installed solar capacity of 2,546.39 MW, being able to supply 1.99% of its energy consumption.
Due to the 45% price reduction for solar generation equipment in the last 5 years, the solar industry has exponentially grown in this state, especially in 2020. Virginia plans to increase its solar capacity to 6,453.87 MW in the next 5 years, which translates as a 253.45% growth from its current capacity and will place Virginia as the 4th best state within the Solar National Ranking by that year.
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.
Virginia also has an average electricity cost of 12.07 ¢/kWh which is 7.78% less than the average in the US. Even though electricity rates are slightly lower in this state, with the per capita average monthly consumption of 1,122 kilowatts-hours, the expected monthly electrical bills for homeowners in Virginia amount to $135.43, which is 17.26% more than the national average.
To enjoy a good quality of life with climate temperatures in Virginia, citizens tend to use high-consumption electronics that increase temperatures in the cold season of the year and reduce them in the hot peaks of summer. This power consumption positions Virginia as the 31st state in the Energy Consumed Per Capita ranking by the EIA. Considering these high-cost electricity bills, homeowners in Virginia would highly benefit from rooftop PV systems that can partially or completely offset the electrical bill.
Is it worth going solar in Virginia?
Virginia consumes up to two and a half times more energy than they produce, which is why going solar can be highly beneficial for homeowners and major retail companies in the state. This is also one of the main reasons why Virginia passed the Clean Economy Act setting the ambitious goal of consuming 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.
Monthly electrical bills in Virginia are higher than those in almost every other state in the South Atlantic states. Virginia has average electrical monthly bills of $135.42, which is 38.72% more expensive than those in Columbia, and up to 63% more expensive than states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Depending on the location within the state, a medium-large rooftop PV system with a 9 – 10 kW DC size could be the perfect fit for homeowners. Considering different geographical locations, these PV systems might generate an average of up to 13,220 – 13,689 kWh per year, which is enough to supply 98% to 100% of the 13,464 kWh average per capita yearly consumption for households in the state.
A 9 – 10 kW DC solar generation system can cost up to $23,220 – $25,500 before solar incentives. After applying the solar federal tax credit that reduces 26% of the cost from the system, the overall price will be reduced down to $17,156 – $18,863. With the cost for electricity in the state, Virginia has a payback period of 10.5 – 11.6 years for rooftop PV systems.
With rooftop solar generation systems of these sizes and the cost for electricity bills in the state, you get average yearly savings of $1,625.04. Considering that PV systems have an average lifespan of 25 years, you can save up to $40,626 during that period, which is 2.15 to 2.36 times the cost of the PV system.
While Virginia is and will be living the solar revolution for the next years with the Clean Economy Act, there is no better time like the present for homeowners to go solar. The federal tax credit reduction solar incentive reducing 26% of the price of the system, will be reduced to 22% by 2023 and dropped out entirely by 2024.
How much energy will your solar system generate?
Virginia is an excellent state to generate solar power considering its radiation levels. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) database, Virginia receives radiation levels of 3.26 to 6.60 kWh by a square meter per day depending on the calendar date and geographical location within the state.
These radiation levels can be translated for PV modules as 3.26 – 6.60 full hours of daily solar radiation at maximum efficiency. Depending on the geographical location, a 9 kW DC rooftop PV system can generate yearly up to 12,879 – 13,993 kWh in AC power and a 10 kW system up to 13,128 – 14,137 kWh.
With this much AC yearly power, you can offset 98% to 100% of your power consumption depending on the radiation levels, date of the year, and size of the solar system. By offsetting your electrical bill, you can save on average up to $1,625.04 per year in electrical utility payments.
Payment options for your PV system in Virginia
When acquiring a rooftop solar generation system for your home, you may choose from several payment options fully allowing you to enjoy carbon-free energy. Here are the available payment options in Virginia, most of them make you eligible for solar incentives that will save you thousands of dollars in your system.
- Solar purchase/cash: A cash purchase is the simplest option when buying a PV system and the one that provides you with the most savings in the long run. With this straightforward payment option, you are fully eligible for all federal and local solar incentives in the state.
- Solar loans: Virginia has several loan options instated to help homeowners that want to install a rooftop solar generation system without immediate down payments. You may opt for the Fannie Mae Green Financing loan or the FHA PowerSaver Loan and enjoy low-interest rates of 4.99% – 9.99% for up to 20 years.
- Solar leasing: With solar leasing, you get an installed rooftop PV system but do not fully own it, instead, you pay a monthly operating fee to your solar lessor. While you are not eligible for incentives with solar leasing, you get to enjoy all the generated energy for a small rate.
- Community solar or Shared Solar Program: The community solar program in Virginia allows for citizens living in any type of residence to purchase electric power in a shared solar facility that generates its power from PV modules. We will dive further into this program later on to give you a detailed explanation.
What are the solar incentives in Virginia?
When you fully buy a rooftop solar generation system, you might be eligible for several local and federal solar incentives. Here are the main incentives for which you can be eligible when acquiring a solar generation system for your home.
Federal Solar Tax Credit (former ITC)
The Federal Solar Tax Credit is also known as the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit is an incentive granting you a 26% dollar-for-dollar reduction from the overall cost of your PV system against your federal tax liability. If the credit exceeds your tax liability, you can carry forward the amount to the next taxable year. This incentive is being reduced to 22% by 2023 and dropped out entirely by 2024.
Residential Property Tax Exemption
New installations and improvements for homes may increase local property taxes for homeowners in Virginia. With the Residential Property Tax Exemption, you are partially or fully exempt from paying the local property tax increase that you would get by installing your rooftop PV system. The exemption amount will be defined by each city, which is why you must contact the local building inspection officials to ask for the details about this incentive within your region.
Virginia Solar Rights
The Virginia Solar Rights is not a financial incentive, but a law that allows you to defend your right to install rooftop PV systems at your home from the designations or prohibitions from community associations. While a community association may not forbid you from installing a PV system, they might establish some reasonable restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of the installation.
VA Net Metering program
The VA Net Metering Program is an excellent incentive in Virginia that provides savings and sometimes an income for residential homeowners. You may be eligible for this incentive if you get your electricity from an Investor-owned utility or an electric cooperative and your PV system has a 20 kW DC or smaller size.
With the VA Net Metering program, you get credits for the excess generated power that your solar system produces and sends to the local electrical grid, those credits are reduced from future monthly electrical bills at the same retail rate. If you have excess generated credits after a 12-month cycle, you can opt to roll those credits indefinitely or receive a payment from your utility company at a full retail rate.
Considering this incentive, you may want to install a PV system bigger than the 9 – 10 kW DC system. This way you can offset your entire consumption and get some extra credits.
Guide to Community Solar in Virginia
As promised, it is time to fully explain what the community solar projects around Virginia are and how they work. By the end of 2020, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) established the rules for the Shared Community Solar Projects as stated in SB 629. This bill establishes that customers of Dominion Virginia will be able to purchase power by subscribing to a shared solar facility.
With the shared community solar project, Virginia citizens getting their electricity from Dominion Virginia will be able to use solar energy even if they do not have a suitable rooftop for PV modules. Here we will explain in detail how this project works and what you can do to subscribe to it.
How do Shared Community Solar Projects work?
Shared community solar facilities might be comprised of apartment building complexes, office building complexes, industrial parks, and many others that have sufficient space and resources to install small solar farms not exceeding 5,000 kilowatts. These facilities will sell the output energy to customers all over Virginia through the Dominion Energy utility.
Customers of Shared Community Solar Projects get their energy from solar facilities located in communities throughout Virginia. The customers will virtually use solar energy without installing panels at their homes, instead, they use the output energy generated by these community solar facilities.
The project operates by using the net metering system to measure the consumption of each customer. This customer will get a bill by the metered consumption, with the energy being supplied by the shared community solar facility at a cheaper rate than the utility option.
It is estimated that the shared community solar Project initiative will be launching by 2023. By that date, the solar capacity of Virginia will be increasing steadily as more citizens participate in these projects and more communities act as generators.
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 billing does not exclude any type of citizen to participate in the shared community solar projects, it specifically includes that 30% of the customers must be low-income citizens. By this decree, people with low incomes will have a reserved space to enjoy solar energy at low rates.
Depending on the final rules established by the Dominion Virginia and the state, some users might end up having to pay a minimum bill concerning their consumption. In the case that this regulation is instated, low-income customers making up 30% of the customer pool, will be exempt from this requirement.
How can you roll yourself in the Shared Community Solar Project?
While the community solar projects will launch soon, you can Pre-Enroll right now! You will be notified by Dominion Energy Virginia to take part in this project since participation will be available on a first-come-first-served basis. To pre-enroll in this program, you have to follow the next steps:
- Sign in to your account at Dominion Energy.
- Access the Energy Use & Conservation section.
- Select the Renewable Energy Programs.
- Choose the pre-enrollment option and be ready to subscribe to the closest shared community solar project to enjoy the benefits of solar energy.
Best Solar Companies in Virginia: Our top choices
When going solar, it is important to choose the best company to install your solar panels. This company will provide your solar panels, perform the installation, and more. To help you pick the best company for your Virginia home, we have compiled a list of the best solar installers in the region. We used the following criteria to pick each company.
- The Reputation of the company – We revised certified reviews and average ratings to select each solar company concerning its reputation.
- Solar projects – To choose companies with the best experience, we picked installers that have performed several small and large projects with outstanding results.
- Brands and quality of the products – To ensure you get the best generation, you should use quality solar products. We selected each company depending on the solar products they install, to ensure they use the best options available.
- Partnership and certifications – Partnerships with the best manufacturers and installer certifications are important since these will ensure you get a quality solar company that knows what they are doing.
- Warranty – The best solar companies will ensure you the quality work and be liable for their workmanship through the time and for the policies of the warranty. We looked into the warranty and policies of each company, to pick the best possible options.
Blue Raven Solar
Blue Raven Solar is ranked among the best solar installers in Virginia. This company has performed thousands of high-quality certified installations around the whole country, making them one of the most experienced solar installers in the US.
With Blue Raven, you will be able to opt for quality installations, electric contracting services, and much more. When going solar with Blue Raven you will get high-end black monocrystalline silicon PV modules and Enphase microinverters. This company also provides a quality warranty of 10 years for the installation workmanship.
Solar SME, Inc.
Solar SME, Inc. was founded in 2014, since that year the company has become one of the top solar contractors in the country and has performed installations in more than five states including Virginia. The company is focused on providing personalized solar systems according to the electrical needs of each customer, and they even allow payments from financing companies like Sunnova Energy, Dividend Solar, and Medallion Bank.
Among the services you may contract from Solar SME, Inc. you can choose solar installations, electrical contracting, solar community installations, general contracting, and maintenance of PV modules. When going solar with Solar SME, Inc. you can choose quality products from brands like Enphase Energy, QCells, Solar Edge, SolarWorld, SMA America, Canadian Solar Inc., LG Solar, Panasonic, and OutBack Power.
Solar Energy World
Solar Energy World is a solar installer founded in 2009 with surprisingly rapid growth. This company provides services in several states including Virginia, they have performed thousands of certified installations to families all over the US, allowing these families to enjoy the benefits of solar energy with professional workmanship and personalized size rooftop solar generation systems.
This company provides solar installations, roofing, and financing services with companies like Sunrun, EnerBank USA, GreenSky, and LoanPal. When going solar with Solar Energy World you will enjoy quality solar products from high-end brands like Enphase Energy, LG Solar, SolarEdge Technologies, REC, LONGi Solar, and Tesla. They provide an excellent warranty for their installations.
ION Solar is a top-quality premium solar installer founded in 2009. This company provides services in more than 8 states, including Virginia. With thousands of installations performed and a vast experience, ION Solar achieves what many other companies cannot: simplicity for premium personalized size solar installations.
With ION Solar you will be able to choose among a variety of services, including solar installations, construction, electrical contracting, repair & maintenance of solar systems, and energy efficiency consulting. When going solar with ION Solar, you get high-end solar products from brands like Trina Solar and Enphase Energy.
Sunpro Solar is a quality solar installer founded in 2008. With more than 12 years of experience and over 25,000 certified installations, Sunpro Solar is one of the best solar installers in several states including Virginia. With Sunpro Solar, you will get a personalized solar system to suit your every electrical need.
This company provides several quality services like solar installations, energy auditing, electrical contracting, roofing, energy optimization consulting, and financing for PV systems through companies like Mosaic, Dividend Solar, Sunlight Financial, and others. When going solar with Sunpro Solar you can choose quality high-end products from brands like Enphase Energy, LG Solar, LONGi Solar, and Tesla.
Tesla is one of the most popular companies in the country with a focus on the energy industry. Founded in 2003, Tesla is better known for their electric cars, but they provide personalized solutions for solar generation systems, long warranties, and a variety of solar products that perfectly adapt to every home, allowing homeowners to generate solar energy with aesthetically pleasing PV modules.
Tesla will provide you with every service required to install a rooftop solar generation system with backup power at your home. This company has two types of products for a solar generation: the Tesla roof and the Tesla solar panels. For an energy backup storage system, you can acquire the PowerWall, a quality storage system that ensures you have energy at night when your panels are not receiving solar radiation.