Using renewable energy to power homes, businesses, and local government produces little to no greenhouse gas emissions and reduces air pollution when compared with fossil fuel burning. Renewable energy diversifies the energy supply, reduces our dependence on imported fuels, and creates economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation, and more. Renewable energy typically includes solar energy, wind power, geothermal, biomass, and others. Some of the most promising options for homes, businesses, and local governments is solar energy because the cost of installing solar has dropped dramatically since 2010.
SolSmart is a national designation program recognizing cities, counties, and regional organizations that foster the development of mature local solar markets. SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies office. The City of Alexandria received SolSmart Bronze designation in 2017 and was awarded SolSmart Silver designation in October 2019.
Solarize is a collective purchasing program whereby groups of homeowners and businesses or a representative of those groups negotiate rates, competitively select an installer, and help individuals “go solar” with a limited time offer. The City of Alexandria has worked with NVRC and LEAP to bring the community Solarize programs every year for the past five years. Refer to the SolarizeAlexandria page for more information.
Solar PV Feasibility Study
- The City completed a Solar PV Feasibility Study of several government facilities in 2012. The Office of Energy Management is in the process of scoping out a renewable energy supply strategy for FY2021 as proposed in the City’s Capital Improvement Program.
Renewable Energy Installations
- Beatley Central Library: 42 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system
- Witter Recreational Field: 10 kW solar PV system
- Alexandria Renew: Solar energy powers their main pump station building
If you are contemplating “going solar”, please refer to the information below for things you may want to consider when installing a system in the City of Alexandria.
- Community renewable energy installations
- Find out if solar is right for you!
- City of Alexandria solar permitting process
- State and utility policies
- Residential solar
The community is making headway on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions through the installation of solar energy! Through the SolarizeAlexandria campaigns that occurred in 2015 through 2018, a total of 33 residents signed contracts with an installer for a combined capacity of 182 kW.
For the City of Alexandria as a whole, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) shows that as of December 31, 2018, 236 systems were installed for a rated capacity of 1,525 kW. See their interactive map.
The City of Alexandria and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) provide the Northern Virginia Solar Map online tool for homeowners to conduct a preliminary analysis of the solar energy potential for their homes. The Northern Virginia Solar Map provides information on the potential size of a solar power system, potential electricity savings, and estimated CO2 emissions avoided for homes and businesses in Alexandria and the Northern Virginia region. While the map does not take the place for the need of an on-site solar assessment by a qualified solar energy professional, the Northern Virginia Solar Map provides a starting point for a conversation about the impact of placing solar on one’s home or building. The Northern Virginia Solar Map provides "how to" instructions, information on calculating solar energy potential for homes and buildings, and assumptions used in calculating the size, electricity savings, and CO2emissions avoided of a solar power system.
Launched in September 2016, the Northern Virginia Solar Map was recognized in 2017 with the Robert M. deVoursney Best Practices Award by the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissioners.
To use the Northern Virginia Solar Map to conduct a preliminary analysis of the solar energy potential for your home or business, visit www.novasolarmap.com.
Solar Permitting Checklist
- The solar permitting checklist provides the general steps for the permitting, installation, and inspection processes for the City of Alexandria. This resource also provides answers to some frequently asked questions.
- The applicable permits for a solar installation can be submitted online through the Department of Code Administration’s Online Permit Center.
- Please refer to the Department of Code Administration’s
Fee Schedule & Payment Methods page for up-to-date information.
Permit Time Frame
- For residential systems, in-person walk-through reviews will be complete the same business day; otherwise, reviews will be complete in three (3) business days. For commercial photovoltaic systems, reviews may take up to twenty (20) business days. More information on plan review timelines can be found at the Department of Code Administration Plan Review Time Frames.
- To check on your solar permit status, please refer to the Department of Code Administration’s Permit Tracker.
- When installing solar in Alexandria's historic districts, there are some simple design guidelines to follow to maximize solar access and historic preservation. See page 115 of Design Guidelines for the Old and Historic Alexandria District and the Parker-Gray District. For additional questions, contact the Department of Planning and Zoning.
- The State of Virginia and Dominion Energy play major roles in the Virginia solar energy industry by setting and implementing policy.
- The most comprehensive source of information on relevant policies at the state level that support renewable energy can be found on DSIRE – just click on Virginia. Some topics to get you started include net metering, solar rights, and solar easements.
- Dominion Energy also provides great information on their policies for property owners that want to install solar. Important topics to understand include net metering, eligible system sizes, solar energy standby charges, and how excess generation is handled. All of these topics and more can be found on their Net Metering FAQs.
Choosing a Solar Installer
- Find a solar contractor (or two) to assess your home for solar energy and provide a quote. Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
- During the SolarizeAlexandria campaign, our partners choose an installer to provide you a solar system with discounted pricing by issuing a request for proposals to Virginia-based solar contractors and evaluating their responses based on price, equipment quality, and company business practices, giving consideration to geographic proximity.
- Below are several other resources to help you choose an installer:
- Choosing a Solar Installer – an informative short video from the GW Solar Institute explaining the questions to ask and research to conduct prior to going solar.
- Consumer Solar Checklist - a checklist for residential consumers considering solar energy from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights – ensuring a positive consumer experience by addressing important issues from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Solar Customer Resource Portal
- Federal and State: The same resource that provides information on relevant policies also provides the most up-to-date information on available incentives for solar customers. Please refer to the DSIRE website to find this information. Of particular note is the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which is set to decrease starting in 2020.
- Local: The City of Alexandria offers the “ Solar Energy Equipment Tax Exemption” for homeowners who install a qualified solar energy system. The property tax exemption is equal to 100% of cost and installation and is deducted from the value of the property every year for 5 (five) years. In order to qualify for the tax exemption, property owners must follow instructions provided.
- The CleanEnergy States Alliance ( CESA) provides a great resource that outlines financing options for your solar energy system as well as questions to ask a solar installer with their “A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing”.
- The GW Solar Institute provides an informative short video explaining different solar financing options here.
- The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) provides potential solar customers and current customers with solar consumer protection resources and information as well as additional information to help a resident considering solar installation. Click here to learn more.
- Federal and State: The same resource that provides information on relevant policies also provides the most up-to-date information on available incentives for solar customers. Please refer to DSIRE to find this information. Of particular note is the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS).
- The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) developed a resource for commercial property owners to understand the variety of mechanisms that commercial property owners have to pay for solar, such as self-financing or leases.
- Small Business & Non-Profit Loan Program: In April of 2014 H.B. 864 mandated that the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA) provide financing for wind and solar projects to small businesses and nonprofits. Please contact the VSBFA to explore your options.
(NOTE: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.)