States and even counties vary wildly across the country on their “solar friendliness” (the ease and cost of going solar). This can be for reasons from lack of statewide laws that aid in solar being a positive financial investment, to local governments requiring unnecessary paperwork or red tape, which turns into added costs that get pushed onto customers. The good news is there are a lot of positives for homeowners and business in Northern Virginia who make the switch to solar.
Let’s look at Fairfax County for example. The county released a written Solar Statement in 2019 declaring their commitment to become a SolSmart-designated community. SolSmart, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a national program that works with local communities using objective criteria to help them become more solar friendly. The program is led by non-profit organization The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association. Since joining, Fairfax has earned Gold, SolSmart’s highest designation.
Programs like SolSmart are significant for the future of the solar industry in the United States. They mean little however, when not put into action by local governments. Fortunately for residents and solar installers in the region, Fairfax isn’t the only county pushing to be more solar friendly. There are currently 5 other cities and counties in NOVA (including Alexandria, Arlington, the City of Fairfax, Falls Church and Loudoun) with SolSmart desginations as well as the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC). NVRC is a council of thirteen local governments that take on programs and projects to help with regional coordination. By joining SolSmart and earning a Gold designation, the council has set a goal of encouraging cities and counties in the region to work towards being more solar friendly.
One solar industry win involving legislation for the state of Virginia was Code § 58.1-3661. This act classifies solar energy equipment, facilities and devices separately, allowing localities to tax them independently of other property. As a result of this, Arlington, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania, and Winchester have clearly defined full or partial property tax exemptions for solar panel installations.
Another important piece of legislation to be aware of is Code of Virginia § 67-701 which states HOAs are not allowed to prohibit solar unless it is specified specifically in the original organization agreement. This was a huge win for Northern Virginia with a large number of HOAs in the area. House Bill 414 is an amendment to the original code, written to more clearly define “reasonable”. The new bill goes into effect on July 1st. Read our solar HOA blog: Can my HOA Prohibit Rooftop Solar in Virginia, Maryland or DC? for more info.
All in all, 2020 is a great time to go solar in Virginia. With the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar installations dropping from 26% this year to 22% in 2021, waiting will most likely not be financially beneficial regardless of what new legislation Virginia passes in the next several years. Visit our quote page if you’re ready for a free, no hassle solar installation estimate.