Since Jan. 2015 over 125 families in the Central Shenandoah Valley have installed solar panels. Why?
When the sun is shining, the electricity you produce reduces the amount you buy; one kilowatt-hour (kW-hr) produced means one less kW-hr purchased. In addition, with net metering, when you produce more than you use, your electric meter runs backward, giving you credit for your over-production. In months when you produce more than you use you pay only a fee to be connected to the grid. In Virginia, your system must be sized to produce no more than your average annual use.
- Increase the value of your home
U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the sales price of the average home increased $17,000 with solar panels.
- Incentives reduce cost of purchase
Until the end of 2019 the Federal Solar Tax Credit allows you to receive a credit for 30% of the total system cost on your federal income tax. The credit will then decline gradually to 10% in 2022. After 2022 the credit will be eliminated for residential solar installations.
If you can join a solar co-op you can typically receive a discount of 15 – 20% on the system cost. Contact Virginia Sun (http://www.vasun.org/) for more information.
- Solar is a secure investment
Typically, the payback period for solar panels is 7 to 12 years; shorter if electric rates increase. After that the electricity you generate is essentially free (less your connection fee).
- Get guaranteed performance
Solar panel manufacturers typically warrantee their products for 20 to 25 years. A typical warranty is 80% performance after 25 years.
- Help create energy independence
The source of solar energy is the sun. No power company or foreign nation can turn it off.
- Adding solar is easy
The easiest way to buy solar is through a solar co-op, like the Massanutten Regional Solar Co-op, which recently closed to new members. Even without a co-op, however, it isn’t difficult as there are several vendors serving the Valley that are fully qualified to assess your home and advise you.
- Reduce air pollution and associated health impacts
At least half the electricity in the Valley is generated with fossil fuels, with coal being the major one. The emissions associated with coal-fired power plants have been linked to asthma and other respiratory problems. Every kW-hr your panels generate is a kW-hr that doesn’t have to be produced from coal.
- Help fight climate change and care for Earth
Climate change is caused by increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The average residential solar system offsets about 5,000 lbs of CO2 a year – the equivalent of driving a car for 5,000 miles.
- When there’s a solar spill, we call it a nice day!
Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/rooftop-solar-panels-benefits-costs-policies#.VwVeJJwrJdg
Clean Technia: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/08/advantages-disadvantages-solar-power/
MIT Technology Review: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/544981/tax-credit-extension-gives-solar-industry-a-new-boom/
American Builders Quarterly: http://americanbuildersquarterly.com/2012/how-to-plan-and-install-a-solar-panel-system/
This list was compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) steering committee, for CAAV Earth Month outreach events in April 2016.