by Cynthia Lehmann
Have you been toying with the idea of going solar ever since you saw An Inconvenient Truth? Perhaps you haven’t done anything about it (other than feel guilty) because you have heard that it is very expensive. Or perhaps you don’t trust yourself to find a competent installer who won’t rip you off.
Whatever the reason, now might be the time to reconsider. At a Sept. 10 community meeting at the Methodist Home, Anya Schoolman, president of D.C. Solar United Neighborhoods (DC SUN), showed how affordable and easy solar energy can be. DC SUN helped more than 300 households in Adams Morgan and Petworth install a solar system, and is now forming a group of interested homeowners in Chevy Chase to do the same.
Ideally, at least 20 households in reasonable proximity would form a group to make a bulk purchase of solar panels and installation. Typically a contractor will give a 20 percent discount to the group. Each homeowner signs his or her own contract with the installer and costs may vary among homeowners, but all would receive the same discount. DC SUN is available at no cost to guide the group through the process.
Another benefit is that one circuit in a house would continue to operate and provide enough electricity to power a few appliances in the event of an electrical outage.
Of course, homes vary and some roofs may require repair before solar panel installation, but the listed costs are typical for homes in the District. Installers do not like to work on slate roofs, but DC SUN will help find an installer if there is sufficient interest.
In DC, the average family uses 850 kilowatts per month (28 kilowatts per day). A 3.0-kilowatt-per-hour system, with the sun shining an average of five hours a day, should provide one-half of that family’s electricity requirements.
The following chart shows the costs of going solar:
Cost to install a 3.0-kilowatt system
(before incentives) ……………………….. $13,500
Solar Renewable Energy Credit
upfront payment ……………………………. -3,750
Bulk purchase discount (20%
of system cost) …………………………….. -2,700
Federal tax credit (30% of system cost) ….. -4,050
Estimated energy savings in
one year (1/2 of annual bill) …………………. -480
Total cost (after one year) ………………… $2,520
What is a Solar Renewable Energy Credit? Under DC law, a certain percentage of energy must come from renewable sources (wind and solar). Electric companies may produce energy from renewable sources but most purchase credits from the producers. An owner of solar panels can sell future production of energy to a company that needs to meet its quota. Currently, DC has a robust market for these credits, hence the large payment. You can receive an upfront payment or quarterly payments over a period of one to five years.
Quarterly payments total more than the upfront payment, and DC SUN encourages this plan. In addition a $1,500 DC Renewable Energy Grant may be available, if the program is ever funded. Currently, there is a list of homeowners awaiting funding. Pepco no longer provides solar panel installation assistance. Leasing solar panels is also an option.
There are companies operating in the DC area that will provide various leasing arrangements. To get started, visit bitly.com/ward3bulksolar and fill out your contact information. Please also send a copy of a recent Pepco bill and your signed (nonbinding) Letter of Commitment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Installers need to be able to review your bill so they can size your system correctly.