Solar Basics

General

What is Solarize NOVA?

Solarize NOVA is a grassroots community-based outreach event to make going solar easier and more affordable. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the nonprofit organization, LEAP, are providing the one-stop shop for education, installations, and financing your solar project. Solarize NOVA will use concepts such as bulk purchasing and free solar site assessments to make the process easy and affordable.

How will Solarize NOVA bring down the price?

The foundation of this program is community engagement. As members of a community rally behind solar, the installers are able to lower their prices. This is a result of bulk purchasing, offset marketing expenses, reduced travel expenses, and the guarantee that solar installation crews will be kept busy. In addition to the reduced price produced by Solarize NOVA’s economies of scale, LEAP will help you access a 30% federal tax credit, affordable financing, and navigate the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market.

How are Solarize NOVA installers selected?

A competitively based Request for Proposals was released and distributed to many of the area’s best solar installation companies. The NVRC and LEAP review all proposals and select the contractor based on competitive pricing, quality of equipment/systems/warranties, and overall experience and qualifications working in the local region.

Do Solarize NOVA participants get to select their installer?

Only the selected installer(s) is working with the campaign to offer the special pricing and other assistance.

Will my HOA allow solar panels on my roof?

In 2014, legislation was passed in the state of Virginia stating that an HOA may not outright restrict the installation of a solar power system, but are entitled to “reasonable restrictions” such as size, place and manner of of placement. For more information, please visit MDV-SEIA’s Guidelines for HOA’s on Solar Installations in Virginia.

LEAP and the participating Solarize NOVA installers are happy to talk to your HOA and neighbors on your behalf to answer questions and alleviate concerns.

Does installing a solar system increase my Homeowner’s Insurance?

Typically, solar systems do not increase homeowner’s insurance premium, however, it is possible for a small increase. We always recommend that you notify your insurance provider of the new solar system addition, so that it will be covered in the case of any damage.

What to expect when joining Solarize NOVA?

By joining Solarize NOVA, you will receive a free solar site assessment performed by a participating Solarize NOVA solar installer. After your solar site assessment, your installer will provide you with a proposal tailored for you, your budget, and your home’s energy needs. Once you receive your proposal, you will have a specified period of time to make a decision on signing the contract. Solar installers will also be tasked with handling all of the technical details, including permitting, utility interconnection, design, and installation. After the Solarize campaign period, the Solarize discount will expire and installers will revert back to original market prices.

I’m not sure I’ll be ready to sign a contract before the campaign is over. Can I still participate?

You are not required to sign a contract by the campaign deadline. This deadline is for homeowners and business owners to sign up for the program.  If you let the Solarize NOVA installer know your time frame requirements, they will do their best to offer the campaign price.

Can I put a solar system on my town home?

Yes, a solar system can be installed on a town home.

Finances

Is there any financing available for Solarize NOVA participants?

Through a partnership with Admirals Bank, all Solarize NOVA participants will be eligible to apply for the Solar StepDown and Solar Plus Loans. These loans are designed specifically for solar energy projects and include 0% interest financing for up to 30% of your project over 18 months and another $25,000 over 20 years at competitive interest rates between 4.59% – 9.95%.

We also encourage participants to consult their local financial institutions for other financing opportunities.

Will electricity payments rise in the future?

Your monthly payments for solar will never increase, protecting you from utility rate increases. And you can expect your system to perform efficiently for 25 years or more, providing you with decades of free electricity.

One of solar power’s many advantages is that the sun will always be free. It’s like buying a house instead of renting an apartment. Your mortgage won’t ever change, even as landlords constantly increase their rents. Once your panels are installed, you never have to worry about the price for your solar PV system going up – while you keep enjoying the value of its energy production.

When do I receive the 30% federal tax credit?

If you owe federal taxes in an amount greater than the tax credit, the entire 30% federal tax credit can be used in the tax year you install your solar system.  If you owe less than the tax credit amount, it can be spread over five tax years.  We recommend for you to contact your tax adviser for more detailed information.

Location

Does NOVA receive enough sunlight for solar to make sense?
NOVA receives almost as much solar radiation as Miami does on an annual basis. Here is a map of the United State’s solar potential from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to prove it.

National_PV_Map_Letter2

Is solar right for all homes?
LEAP and participating Solarize NOVA installers will need to check the roof of your home for structural soundness, orientation to the sun, shading, and other details. Unfortunately, solar doesn’t work for every situation. Even if solar is not a good fit for a home, LEAP can help determine a plan for reducing energy bills and increasing the health, comfort, and value of a home through energy efficiency.

Solar System

What is an inverter?

Your solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity travels to your solar power inverter, which converts it into the alternating current (AC) electricity used to run your home’s appliances.

What are the warranties?

Solarize NOVA solar panels have a 25-year power output warranty. Inverters are warranted free of defects for at least 10 year and mounting systems are warranted free of defects for at least 5 years. Participating Solarize NOVA solar installers will also provide a minimum of 10 years on all installation labor, if not so covered by the manufacturers’ warranties.

How does a solar system affect my roof warranty?

Typically, installing a solar system does not affect a roof warranty, but you should always check with your roof contractor before having any work done.

How will I replace my roof after I have installed a solar system?

The participating Solarize NOVA installer will evaluate your roof during the site assessment to determine if it should be replaced before installing a solar system.  In the rare circumstance that a roof must be replaced after solar panels have been installed, a solar contractor can remove and reinstall them accordingly. There is a labor cost involved in this process that is not included in the Solarize NOVA program.

What is net metering?

Net energy metering is a special metering and billing agreement between you and your electric utility. Normally your electric meter spins forward as it measures how many kilowatt-hours of electricity you buy. A net energy metering agreement allows you to use the electricity you generate first, reducing what you would normally buy from your electric utility. If you generate more electricity than you use, the excess goes through your electric meter and into the grid, spinning your meter backward. Your meter records the net amount, measured as the difference between the electricity your system generates and the electricity you purchase from your electric utility.

Can a Solarize NOVA solar system power my home in the event of a power outage?

“Grid-tied” or interconnected solar PV systems typically do not have battery back-up systems. If a power outage occurs, your solar PV system will automatically shut down to protect utility workers.

How will I power my home when the sun is not shining?

Since your system will be “grid-tied”, you will purchase electricity from your electric utility to power your home just as you do now.

How will I know how much electricity my solar system is producing?

Your solar system will include a monitoring service so both homeowners and the Solarize NOVA installers can check the system output, and be alerted if issues arise.

Will my solar system require yearly maintenance?

There is no recurring maintenance required.  We receive enough rain in our area to provide the needed minimal cleaning of the solar panels.

Will I need to clean or remove snow from my solar panels?

In general, solar panels do not need to be cleaned or have snow removed.  During a typical NOVA winter, only 2-3 days are affected by snowfall which has a minimal impact on panel production. Solarize NOVA installers’ proposal calculations account for average weather conditions throughout the year.

LEAP and Solarize NOVA installers recommend against getting on top of roofs to clean panels. We receive enough rain in our area to provide the needed minimal cleaning of the solar panels.

What happens if a solar panel is damaged?

Solar panels are constructed to be durable and rigorously tested. If a panel is damaged in a weather event, a homeowner’s insurance claim will need to be filed to cover the repair cost.

How much do the solar panels weigh?

Each panel weighs approximately 42 pounds.

 

Can I still use a generator after installing a solar system?

Yes, a generator can still be used after installing a solar system.

 

LEAP would like to thank Solarize Blacksburg, Community Housing Partners, and VA-SUN for sharing the content on this page and for their invaluable assistance in helping us to design this program.