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You ask, we answer: Going solar in Virginia

Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia

Road in Shenandoah National park at the autumn

A few days ago, our friend Robert from Virginia sent us a rather straightforward email. It read:

“Why won’t VA get w/ the program on solar? We have a democrat in the governor’s office.”

And here’s the three-word short answer:

Dominion Virginia Power.

The longer answer is that Virginia doesn’t have a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law, which means the state doesn’t have good incentives for solar. And because the utility companies don’t face penalties for not switching to clean, renewable energy, they don’t have any reason to offer homeowners rebates for installing solar on their houses.

Even as Dominion buys up large scale solar projects in other states, they work to restrict individual access to solar in Virginia by lobbying members of the state General Assembly. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, below, has got his hands full, with many powerful opponents of renewable energy in the Assembly.

No love for solar, governor?

The governor’s recently-announced energy plan contains some positive language for photovoltaics, but, since politics is the art of the possible, we’re not holding our breath. Here’s a telling quote from the energy plan’s section about solar energy generation:

“Currently, Virginia law does not allow a third party to install and own a renewable energy facility on a utility customer’s property and sell the utility customer the renewable output of the renewable energy system.”

That means that solar leasing companies like SolarCity and SunPower, can’t operate in Virginia. That’s the effect a powerful investor-owned utility lobby can have on the playing field for solar.

The good news

The good news is that solar equipment prices are dropping rapidly, and if the feds extend the 30% tax credit that’s set to expire at the end of 2016, solar installation prices will be at or near grid parity, meaning purchasing a system will be equal to paying for electricity from the power company.

In the meanwhile, why not write a letter to your state representative and ask them to support clean, reliable solar power on roofs from Newport News to Roanoke?

Last modified: August 8, 2019

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