More Loudouners Seeking Solar Power for Homes

Loudouners are increasingly turning toward the sun to power their homes, and thanks to a local campaign going solar is more accessible than ever.

The nonprofit, Solarize Virginia, is holding a campaign to provide free site assessments to determine if solar power is a viable option for a home or business, and facilitates installation at a rate 10% lower than market value.

And Solarize Program Director Katie VanLangen said that a high volume of inquiries is coming from Loudoun.

“It has been exponential. We have seen so much growth around the numbers in Northern Virginia since we launched in 2014. We’re really seeing a ton of interest from that area,” she said, adding that the group has completed over 700 installations.

The group is pushing for homeowners to install solar equipment before the Solar Income Tax Credit drops from 26% to 22% at the end of the year. The Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP, and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission are managing the campaign, which provides interested Virginians with free education and site assessments to determine if solar power is a viable option for a home or business, and facilitates installation at a rate 10% lower than market value.

The program is using two providers for the installations, Prospect Solar and Solar Energy World. Wyatt Thorpe, sales manager for Prospect Solar, said the pandemic sparked an interest in solar power.

“I think there were a lot of people stuck at home and looking for different ways to spend their money and everyone was looking at what home improvements they could do,” he said. 

And, he said, with natural disasters playing out across the country, people are looking for ways to be more self-sufficient.

“Solar has really gotten into the zeitgeist of America with climate change being at the front of everyone’s minds. Not only that, but with the debacle that we saw in Texas with the power grid freezing,” he said, referring to the 2021 crisis that left much of the state without power for weeks. 

A Place in the Sun

VanLangen said that viability for solar production is highly variable due to orientation, shading, and roofing material.

“We want to make sure they have southern facing roof exposure. So that could mean southeastern, southwestern, but really any kind of southern direction that their roof is facing, and minimal shading. We look for other objects like dormers that might decrease the production of the solar array. Not everyone has a home that’s good for solar,” VanLangen said.

She said that about a third of people who undergo initial assessments don’t have a roof that would make going solar cost effective. 

VanLangen said that she explored solarizing her vacation home, but discovered it didn’t use enough power to make the investment worthwhile. 

She also said that the impact of solar on a utility bill is highly variable.

“I know one person who spends about $500 a month powering a large home. They might see their bill go down to $200,” she said. “I had one person email me last week excitedly though who said their bill was like $7.”

Nate McCallum installed solar panels on his Leesburg home several years ago. He said that the panels powered enough of the 5,000 square foot home to cut his monthly electric bill in half.

“There’s an app, so if you’re a techie geek, you can check how much power you’re making and using every month,” he said.

If a home’s panels produce more power than the home uses in a month, its meter will be credited the power for another month. VanLangen gave the example of a family vacationing for the month of August, forgoing use of air conditioning and appliances. The value of the unused solar power could be credited to the December electrical bill, when the sun isn’t as strong and panels aren’t producing as much power.

The excess power produced is returned to the power grid to power neighboring homes.

“Some people want to go solar because they’re concerned about the environment and they’re not concerned about the cost at all. But for most folks, cost does play some role in the decision-making process,” she said. 

While most homeowner’s associations have some guidelines for solar equipment installation, Thorpe said companies generally handle obtaining permits.

“While it’s not the quickest process to work through the bureaucratic red tape, we provide that white glove service,” Thorpe said.

Federal Tax Credit to Expire

VanLangen said people feel a sense of urgency to go solar before the end of the year to realize the 26% federal tax credit. The tax credit has been in place since 2005 but will decrease to 22% in 2023 before ending in 2024. After that, only businesses can receive a federal tax credit, and only for 10% of costs.

She said that installations arranged through LEAP range from $10,000 to $25,000 a home, which saves homeowners $2,600- $6,500 on their federal income taxes. 

McCallum said that the tax benefit was a massive incentive for him in his decision to go solar. 

A study by Zillow in 2019 found that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more than comparable homes without solar power. That’s a trend both McCallum and Thorpe can testify to after selling their own homes in Loudoun County.

Thorpe sold his Leesburg home in April 2022, and said that of 11 people who toured the home, 10 of the prospective buyers said that the solar panels were a desirable amenity.

“That one person was just concerned about the loan,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt said that financing is a popular option for many customers. He financed his home’s $20,000 solar installation with a 20-year loan, and pays $75 a month.

“I was paying $120 a month in power before, so I’m still saving money even with the financing,” he said. “Going solar is a mechanism that’s much more than environmentally motivated, to help people accomplish financial goals as well.”

The Solarize Virginia campaign is accepting signups through June 30 for a free satellite assessment and access to discounted prices. For more information, go to solarizeva.org.

6 thoughts on “More Loudouners Seeking Solar Power for Homes

  • 2022-04-14 at 11:01 am
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    I fully support solar energy. But sorry to say, this article reads too much like a blatant advertisement for Solarize Virginia & the providers. Not my cup of tea. Happy Easter Loudoun!

  • 2022-04-14 at 2:19 pm
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    Beyond the initial costs, I’d like to hear from anyone that actually installed solar panels. What real effect did it have on your electric bill? As a percentage or dollar amount, how much did it decline in a month (or year)? Thanks.

  • 2022-04-14 at 3:59 pm
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    I live in Loudoun County under the Novec power company. They do not have friendly solar power policies. I wanted to install a power array that I had calculated would be needed to power my future power needs, which included a future electric car. Per requirements to be connected to the grid, I submitted the architectural plans to Novec. They told me I had to cut the number of solar panels I wanted to install by almost 40% because I was required to install only enough solar panels to meet slightly less than the power I used the prior year. Additionally, once the power was connected, it took 3 months of putting summer solar power straight into the ground, before someone could come out to my house to inspect the install to allow it to connect to the grid. Needless to say, I’m still quite upset about these non-green forward thinking policies. I ask Loudoun Now to help me get the word out and fight these backward policies.

  • 2022-04-14 at 4:15 pm
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    Solar for homes is reasonable but will still need to be augmented by regular electric generation from utilities.

  • 2022-04-15 at 1:20 pm
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    This article seems like an advertisement.

    Before investing in solar determine what the payback period is. Usually it is 10 years or longer. This assumes that you have no problems with the equipment or maintenance needs that require you to spend more. Will the equipment last that long? Will the manufacturer or installer be here in 10 years to honor a warranty? If you need to replace your roofing within this time, you will have to spend extra to remove and reinstall the solar.

    Currently investing in solar does not save you money. If you have $20 -$40K available, you would be better off investing it and using the profits to pay your utility bills. If and when solar make economic sense, all new homes will come with it.

  • 2022-04-18 at 8:30 am
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    The panels are ugly. The installation is expensive. And the savings you will see doesn’t come until years down the road — if you are lucky and still live at the house. No thanks.

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