A special thanks to RER Energy Group for the banner image.
Why go Solar?
Solar energy is great way to save money, reduce business risk, and help protect the environment. Plus, solar power supports local industry and well-paying local jobs. More and more businesses are going solar for reasons including:
Attractive ROI: In the metro DC region, solar can pay for itself in less than 5 years via energy savings and financial incentives. Many solar companies also offer zero-money down options that save money on day 1.
Eliminate Electricity Price Risk: Solar installations produce predictable cash flows, and can lock in your electric rate for 20 years or more. Historically, electricity prices have grown around 5% annually, so solar can be a valuable hedge against this volatility.
Financial Incentives: Solar installations are currently eligible for a 30% federal tax credit, in addition to local and state incentives.
Public Relations: Using solar power positions a businesses as an environmental leader, and underscores your commitment to a healthy planet and a healthy community.
Energy Independence: Solar power reduces our dependence on foreign oil and other fuels.
For more information about how to calculate the costs and benefits of solar for your company, check out this article from Inc.
COG has partnered with Energy Sage to create a National Capitol Region solar landing page. Calculate your savings with the Solar Calculator, and learn more about financing options, banks offering solar loans, and compare quotes directly from installers for your property.
A Consumer’s Guide: Get Your Power from the Sun: This guide from the U.S. Department of Energy is a great place to start for all questions about solar energy.
The Customer’s Guide to Solar Power Purchase Agreements is a great resource for businesses considering solar and weighing their financing options.
Map your solar potential
PV Watts is a free online tool from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) that estimates the amount of electricity you can produce with a solar array at your home or business using geo-mapping.
Mapdwell is a great mapping tool if you are located in Washington, D.C. It can estimate size, cost, revenue, payback period, and environmental benefits of a potential rooftop solar PV system for any DC address.
The NoVA Solar Map provides solar size, production and savings estimates for Northern Virginia residents and businesses. Currently under expansion, so check back soon if your community is not currently available.
There are several different options for purchasing solar power. Businesses generally use the following options, but new models are emerging as the market matures.
Cash Purchase: Buying a solar energy system outright avoids the cost of financing, and with no monthly payments, it yields the highest savings.
Solar Loan: Most local and national banks now offer specialized loan products for solar purchases. Talk to your bank about options, or find a list here.
Solar Lease: A third-party ownership model, where the customer pays a fixed monthly lease amount for the right to use the solar energy system. The monthly payment is calculated using the estimated amount of electricity the system will produce.
Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): A third-party ownership model, where the customer agrees to purchase the power produced at a set price per kWh. PPA contracts are customizable and can vary based on specific project needs.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): PACE financing provides 100% financing for qualified clean energy and water projects, with low or zero upfront cost, affordable interest rates, and up to a 20-year repayment term. PACE loans are repaid via your property tax bill and are transferable upon sale. See the PACE Section below for more information.
Solar projects are eligible for a federal tax credit for 30% of the installed system cost (called the Investment Tax Credit) in addition to utility rebates and tax incentives available at the state and local level.
Agricultural producers and rural businesses are eligible for grants for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy equipment through the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America Program.
Washington, DC’s Energy Smart Initiative offers clean energy incentive programs, including a solar rebate for low-income residents and for small commercial building owners.
Solar renewable energy certificates or credits (SRECs), represent the “green” value of 1MW (1,000kW) of electricity produced by a solar unit. SRECs are separate from the physical electricity, and can provide an additional funding stream for solar installations.
This brief video from Center for Resource Solutions shows how RECs are created, traded, and tracked. Two of the largest sites for selling and trading SRECs are:
Washington, DC offers PACE financing to commercial and multifamily properties for energy efficiency, renewable energy, water efficiency and storm-water mitigation improvements.
Maryland Clean Energy Center offers an opt-in PACE financing program, which is open to all municipalities in Maryland.
Montgomery County, MD offers PACE financing to commercial and multifamily properties for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water efficiency improvements.
Virginia enabled localities to set up PACE financing programs in 2015. Arlington County, VA is establishing a PACE financing program for commercial and multifamily properties for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water efficiency improvements.
For a detailed comparison of state and local PACE Financing statues and programs, see COG’s Regional PACE Comparison Chart.
Step 1 – Identify your current and projected energy costs and energy use profile.
Step 2 – Evaluate energy efficiency and savings opportunities. Conservation is by far the best way to save on your energy bill.
Step 3 – Identify possible installation locations for solar. An ideal location will have a sturdy, unshaded roof facing south or southwest.
Step 4 – Find a solar provider. It is common for businesses to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) or Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a solar service provider who will manage the project financing and installation process.
This article from Angie’s List has helpful tips for hiring your solar provider.
Step 5 – Negotiate the contract with your solar provider.
Visit NREL’s Renewable Energy Contracts Library for sample PPAs, Leases, Requests for Proposals (RFPs), Interconnection agreements, and more.
Step 6 – System design, permitting, interconnection, and installation.
Step 7 –Use your solar power! Operations and maintenance for 20-30 years is usually provided by the solar company and included in your contract.
4600 Connecticut Avenue, Multifamily Residential Building in Downtown DC
A 3,900 gallon solar hot water system. A special thanks to Tony Powell and for providing the photographs featured below.
Van Ness East
Includes a 260 kW solar PV system, and a 4500 gallon solar hot water system. A special thanks to Tara Nieman at Nextility for providing the photographs featured below.