Using renewable energy to power homes, businesses, and local government produces little to no greenhouse gas emissions and reduces air pollution when compared with fossil fuel burning. Renewable energy diversifies the energy supply, reduces our dependence on imported fuels, and creates economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation, and more. Solar energy, wind power, geothermal, biomass are all examples of renewable energy. One of the most promising options for homes, businesses, and local governments is solar energy because the cost of installing solar has dropped dramatically since 2010.
City’s Renewable Energy Initiatives
SolSmart is a national designation program recognizing cities, counties, and regional organizations that foster the development of mature local solar markets. SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies office. The City of Alexandria received SolSmart Bronze designation in 2017, SolSmart Silver designation in 2019, and was awarded SolSmart Gold designation in July 2020.
SOLARPV FEASIBILITY STUDY
The City completed a Solar PV Feasibility Study of several government facilities in 2012. The Office of Energy Management is in the process of scoping out a renewable energy supply strategy for FY2021 as proposed in the City’s Capital Improvement Program.
RENEWABLE ENERGY INSTALLATIONS
- Beatley Central Library: 42 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system
- Witter Recreational Field: 10 kW solar PV system
- Alexandria Renew: Solar energy powers their main pump station building
EPA GREEN POWER PARTNERSHIP
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership (GPP) seeks to protect human health and the environment by increasing organizations’ voluntary green power use to advance the American market for green power and the development of those renewable electricity sources. The City of Alexandria has been a proud partner of the GPP since December 2010.
RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDIT (REC) PURCHASE PROGRAM
- Since the City’s 2009 Environmental Action Plan (EAP) there has been a focus on acquiring clean, renewable energy sources for the City’s energy portfolio using green certificates and direct procurement. This goal has been reiterated in the City’s 2018 and 2019 update to the EAP.
- The Office of Energy Management works with Dominion Energy to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset City facility energy use. A REC represents the environmental benefits of 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable energy that can be paired with the City’s electricity use. A REC purchase helps build a market for renewable energy by increasing demand for and generation of renewable electricity. For FY2019, the City will purchase RECs to offset 60% of the City’s electricity use. The FY2020 operating budget sets aside money to increase REC purchasing to reach 100% offset of City electricity use.
Community & Renewable Energy
If you are contemplating “going solar”, please refer to the information below for things you may want to consider when installing a system in the City of Alexandria.
FIND OUT IF SOLAR IS RIGHT FOR YOU!
The City of Alexandria and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) provide the Northern Virginia Solar Map online tool for homeowners to conduct a preliminary analysis of the solar energy potential for their homes. The Northern Virginia Solar Map provides information on the potential size of a solar power system, potential electricity savings, and estimated CO2 emissions avoided for homes and businesses in Alexandria and the Northern Virginia region. While the map does not take the place for the need of an on-site solar assessment by a qualified solar energy professional, the Northern Virginia Solar Map provides a starting point for a conversation about the impact of placing solar on one’s home or building. The Northern Virginia Solar Map provides "how to" instructions, information on calculating solar energy potential for homes and buildings, and assumptions used in calculating the size, electricity savings, and CO2emissions avoided of a solar power system.
Launched in September 2016, the Northern Virginia Solar Map was recognized in 2017 with the Robert M. deVoursney Best Practices Award by the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissioners.
To use the Northern Virginia Solar Map to conduct a preliminary analysis of the solar energy potential for your home or business, visit www.novasolarmap.com.
COMMUNITY RENEWABLE ENERGY INSTALLATIONS
The community is making headway on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions through the installation of solar energy! Through the SolarizeAlexandria campaigns that occurred between 2015 through 2021, a total of 81 residents signed contracts with an installer for a combined capacity of 538.2 kW.
For the City of Alexandria as a whole, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) shows that as of 2020, the total capacity of solar energy systems was 1,138 kW . See their interactive map.
SolarizeAlexandria is a collective purchasing program whereby groups of homeowners and businesses or a representative of those groups negotiate rates, competitively select an installer, and help individuals “go solar” with a limited time offer. The City of Alexandria has worked with NVRC and LEAP to bring the community SolarizeAlexandria every year since 2015. Over 80 Alexandrians have installed solar on their homes or businesses through the SolarizeAlexandria program, totaling over 500 kW of installed solar energy system capacity. SolarizeAlexandria also offers participants the opportunity to install EV charging stations and battery storage in addition to solar power systems. The next SolarizeAlexandria program offering will be from March through June, 2023. Visit SolarizeAlexandria for more information.
CITY OF ALEXANDRIA SOLAR PERMITTING PROCESS
Solar Permitting Checklist
- The solar permitting checklist provides the general steps for the permitting, installation, and inspection processes for the City of Alexandria. This resource also provides answers to some frequently asked questions.
- The applicable permits for a solar installation can be submitted online through the Department of Code Administration’s Online Permit Center.
- Please refer to the Department of Code Administration’s Fee Schedule & Payment Methods page for up-to-date information.
Permit Time Frame
- For residential systems, in-person walk-through reviews will be complete the same business day; otherwise, reviews will be complete in three (3) business days. For commercial photovoltaic systems, reviews may take up to twenty (20) business days. More information on plan review timelines can be found at the Department of Code Administration Plan Review Time Frames.
- To check on your solar permit status, please refer to the Department of Code Administration’s Permit Tracker.
- When installing solar in Alexandria's historic districts, there are some simple design guidelines to follow to maximize solar access and historic preservation. See page 115 of Design Guidelines for the Old and Historic Alexandria District and the Parker-Gray District. For additional questions, contact the Department of Planning and Zoning.
STATE AND UTILITY POLICIES
- The State of Virginia and Dominion Energy play major roles in the Virginia solar energy industry by setting and implementing policy.
- The most comprehensive source of information on relevant policies at the state level that support renewable energy can be found on DSIRE – just click on Virginia. Some topics to get you started include net metering, solar rights, and solar easements.
- Dominion Energy also provides great information on their policies for property owners that want to install solar. Important topics to understand include net metering, eligible system sizes, solar energy standby charges, and how excess generation is handled. All of these topics and more can be found on their Net Metering FAQs.
Choosing a Solar Installer
- Find a solar contractor (or two) to assess your home for solar energy and provide a quote. Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
- During the SolarizeAlexandria campaign, our partners choose an installer to provide you a solar system with discounted pricing by issuing a request for proposals to Virginia-based solar contractors and evaluating their responses based on price, equipment quality, and company business practices, giving consideration to geographic proximity.
- Below are several other resources to help you choose an installer:
- Choosing a Solar Installer – an informative short video from the GW Solar Institute explaining the questions to ask and research to conduct prior to going solar.
- Consumer Solar Checklist - a checklist for residential consumers considering solar energy from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights – ensuring a positive consumer experience by addressing important issues from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Solar Customer Resource Portal
- Federal and State: The same resource that provides information on relevant policies also provides the most up-to-date information on available incentives for solar customers. Please refer to the DSIRE website to find this information. Of particular note is the Federal Solar Tax Credit, which was raised to 30% in August 2022.
- Local: The City of Alexandria offers the “ Solar Energy Equipment Tax Exemption” for homeowners who install a qualified solar energy system. The property tax exemption is equal to 100% of cost and installation and is deducted from the value of the property every year for 5 (five) years. In order to qualify for the tax exemption, property owners must follow instructions provided.
- The CleanEnergy States Alliance ( CESA) provides a great resource that outlines financing options for your solar energy system as well as questions to ask a solar installer with their “A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing”.
- The GW Solar Institute provides an informative short video explaining different solar financing options here.
- The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) provides potential solar customers and current customers with solar consumer protection resources and information as well as additional information to help a resident considering solar installation. Click here to learn more.
- Federal and State: The same resource that provides information on relevant policies also provides the most up-to-date information on available incentives for solar customers. Please refer to DSIRE to find this information. Of particular note is the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS).
- The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) developed a resource for commercial property owners to understand the variety of mechanisms that commercial property owners have to pay for solar, such as self-financing or leases.
- Small Business & Non-Profit Loan Program: In April of 2014 H.B. 864 mandated that the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA) provide financing for wind and solar projects to small businesses and nonprofits. Please contact the VSBFA to explore your options.
(NOTE: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.)
GREEN POWER PURCHASING
For those residents and businesses that are not able to produce renewable energy on-site but want to reduce their carbon footprint and ensure their electricity use is offset by renewable energy, Dominion Energy provides you options.
DOMINION ENERGY GREEN POWER
- In May of 2008, Dominion Energy submitted a request to the Virginia State Corporation-Commission (SCC) to provide its customers two options for purchasing renewable energy. Option one allows customers to offset 100% of their electrical usage with electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Option two allows customers to purchase small increments or blocks of renewable energy each month for a monthly fixed dollar amount, allowing residents to choose the amount of renewable energy that fits their budget.
- Under both options, Dominion purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) in order to provide customers a means of directly supporting production of renewable energy. The RECs will be procured from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and biomass facilities nationally. Alexandria has one of the highest participation rates in Dominion’s Green Power program. For more information on how to purchase Green Power visit Dominion Energy Green Power.
VIRGINIA COMMUNITY SOLAR PILOT
- On September 11, 2018, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved Dominion Energy’s Virginia Community Solar Pilot. The Virginia Community Solar Pilot Program is a voluntary program allowing Dominion Energy Virginia customers the opportunity to purchase the renewable attributes from the electricity generated by new solar facilities located in communities throughout Dominion Energy Virginia’s service territory.
- The program is currently being developed but is accepting pre-enrollment for interested customers! To learn more about this program please visit Dominion’s Virginia Community Solar Pilot Program website.