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Solar Energy Shines Brighter in N. Virginia Thanks to Co-Op Help

SOLAR PANELS are in greater demand in Virginia than ever before, with the Solar United Neighbors co-op group currently helping new customers secure lower prices. (Photo: Courtesy Solar United Neighbors)

Slowly but surely, solar energy is overtaking how individual homes are powered, including in Falls Church and the entire state of Virginia.

The state is ranked sixth in solar growth, according to Aaron Sutch, the Mid-Atlantic Program Director of solar co-op, Solar United Neighbors. Ever since SUN, as it’s known, began its branch in the National Capital area in 2014 with branches for suburban Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. itself, it has noticed the commonwealth’s growing interest in solarizing their homes.

“What people don’t realize is all of the benefits of it,” Sutch said. “You think of solar as a generator with no moving parts, a free source of fuel, plus the panels are warranted for 25 years, so there’s just not a lot that can go wrong. What we’re seeing is, there’s more demand for solar than there ever was.”

Homeowner Larry Weinstock is one of those who has caught the wave in the Falls Church area.

Living right outside of the City of Falls Church by the intersection of Haycock Road and Great Falls Street, Weinstock found the co-op’s deal too good to pass up. That deal involves the co-op recruiting a bunch of homeowners who are interested in outfitting their homes with solar panels, and then will represent them to a solar provider in order to secure a better deal on panels. The co-op element comes into play when members of the group select the company they will contract with.

SUN’s current goal for this recruitment period, which started in mid-March and concludes at the end of August, was to get 200 people on board. It currently has 217 people signed up. Weinstock will have to wait for around Labor Day to get his panels installed, but once he does, he said it should go to powering over 70 percent of his home. This process is what becomes “net metering,” per Weinstock, who said the energy produced by the home will be used to offset the energy it consumes.

How that shakes out financially is that the solar panels will reduce his electricity bill from Dominion Power. In his own calculations, he estimated that he’ll save over $100 a month. Since Weinstock is one of the early adopters of solar energy for Dominion’s residential customer base, he gets access to this deal.

It’s about more than money to Weinstock. He said he’s just about exclusively bought hybrid cars for his family (outside of a used one for one of his college-aged kids) since the turn of the century. Adding solar panels to his home is the next step in his own personal affinity for his own “green” ways to produce and use energy. But he also knows this is an investment in his own pocketbook as much as it is in the environment.

“I’m confident having solar panels on the house will make the house worth more. I’m sure it will gain value,” Weinstock said. SUN is a partner with the City of Falls Church. While the co-op just completed its final informational seminar recently, people who are interested in joining before the Aug. 31 deadline can go to solarunitedneighbors.org.