Most experts agree that economic policies in the state have discouraged Virginians from considering solar. This becomes especially clear when you compare the solar infrastructure of Virginia with that of neighboring Maryland.
In 2013, Maryland installed nearly five times as many megawatts (MW) of solar as Virginia, despite having about two-thirds the population. Maryland currently boasts at least 158 MW of installed solar capacity — enough to power 25,912 homes. In contrast, Virginia’s installed solar electric infrastructure totals a paltry 24 MW. No wonder Virginia has been referred to as the “dark state of the mid-Atlantic.”
However, recent legislative developments may mean a brighter future for solar power in Virginia.
4 reasons Virginia’s solar scene is poised to catch up with Maryland’s:
- Net metering – Like Maryland, Virginia already has a net metering program in place, requiring utilities to purchase excess privately generated solar power. Residential generating systems of up to 20 kilowatts (kW) in capacity and non-residential systems up to 500 kW are eligible for net metering in Virginia. The policy reduces payback time and helps makes solar a good investment.
- Property tax exemptions – The recent passage of Virginia Senate bill SB 653 establishes renewable energy property grants in the state, starting in fiscal year 2016. These grants will cover 35 percent of the costs of installing a renewable energy system in Virginia. While the funding source is yet to be determined, the policy is certain to make solar a more attractive option for Virginia residents.
- Machine tool tax exemption for solar – Until recently, equipment used to install solar in Virginia was subject to a pricey machinery and tools tax. An amendment to exempt business-owned solar equipment for installations under 20 MW will go into effect on January 1, 2015, and is expected to help make solar a more affordable option in the state.
- A ready and willing solar workforce – Virginia’s solar industry employs nearly as many workers as Maryland’s (1,900 vs. 2,000). As the solar industry continues to grow in bipartisan support throughout the nation and policies in the state become more solar-friendly, Virginia should have no trouble catching up to and even surpassing its neighbor in megawatts of installed solar infrastructure.
Another reason to go solar now in VA? Predictions of future energy price rises. Even as hundreds of coal plants (including several in Virginia) are being targeted for shutdown due to stricter EPA regulations, the global demand for natural gas is increasing. Exports of domestic liquefied natural gas are expected to boom — massive infrastructure for LNG is already being built in the Gulf states and other locations. Many experts believe this signals the end of the era of cheap natural gas, which will make solar much more affordable compared to fossil fuels.
If you are a Virginia resident and have been considering solar, now is an excellent time to begin the conversation. Give Renewable Energy Corporation a call today and schedule a free solar analysis for your home.