This Monday night the Falls Church City Council voted unanimously to sign onto a regional solar power initiative, Solarize NoVa, of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and its not-for-profit partner, the Local Energy Alliance Program or LEAP, to promote voluntary installation of energy efficient and renewable technologies.
A pilot project in Falls Church is being initiated by the two groups to promote home energy efficiency and solar energy. The intent of the program is to reduce the cost and complexity of “going solar” in the region, with a regional goal of reaching 1,000 rooftops with solar installations by encouraging home owners and business to take advantage of tax credits now available through the end of 2016.
Among the advantages of the program, which is most advanced in Virginia in Charlottesville, where Solarize launched a program resulting in 1,182 sign ups, is to provide a roster of vetted service providers and to offer discounts of 15-20 percent to participants. Other completed Solarize programs in Virginia to date include ones in Blacksburg where there were 465 sign-ups, and Richmond, with 245 sign-ups.
The resolution passed 7-0 by the City Council Monday stipulates that “the City of Falls Church wishes to commend the NVRC and LEAP as they implement this program and expresses its desire that interested residents and business owners carefully consider their participation in Solarize NOVA to improve home energy efficiency and make available to residents and business owners the opportunity to purchase solar systems at reduced prices.”
As of the end of 2013, there were 418 solar systems of 2,580 kilowatt hours or higher, including 15 in Falls Church, according to a Solarize NoVa report. Fairfax County had the most with 121, followed by Loudoun County with 100 and Arlington with 68. Fairfax City had 12 and Manassas six.
Therefore, the 1,000 rooftop challenge is an ambitious one. It is a multi-year campaign whose residential tax credit sunsets in December 2016. LEAP’s role in pushing to reach the goal involves education and outreach, contractor and customer pre-qualification, energy efficiency consultations, and analytics and reporting.
While being self-funded, multiple funding sources have been tapped so far, including business sponsorships, contractor referral fees, in-kind support from municipal program partners, and grants and donations.
A Solarize program is advantageous because it offers vetted contractors, discounted and fixed pricing, standardized systems and equipment packages, provides free energy efficient evaluations and solar site assessments. As a renewable energy resource, it has none of the negative effects of traditional fuel sources.
Remarkably, according to the report, the net monthly cost of adding solar, taking the federal tax credit into account over 15 years, is only $8 for a three kilowatt system, to $6 for a 10 kilowatt system. After that time, estimated monthly savings over electricity are $54 for a three kilowatt system to $179 for a 10 kilowatt system.
The F.C. Council was first introduced to the new Northern Virginia program at a Jan. 20 work session by Tim Stevens of the City’s Environmental Services Council and City Council member Dan Sze.
Making the presentation Monday night were Robert Lazaro Jr., director of Regional Energy Planning for the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and Angela Hopgood, outreach coordinator of the Local Energy Alliance Program.