Williamsburg residents curious about going solar will have an opportunity Saturday to tour a number of homes and businesses that already rely on the sun for their power.
Homeowners in the area are opening their doors to share their experiences of living with solar power during the 23rd annual National Solar Tour, according to a news release from Solar United Neighbors.
“The purpose of the solar tour is to showcase local solar installations,” said Ann Creasy, community outreach coordinator for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Whether someone is looking to install panels or just wanting to learn more, the tour will provide a collaborative, educational space for all.”
One concern about configuring a home to solar energy is cost — typically, it can cost anywhere between $9,000-$12,000 to install solar power in a home but those costs are offset by savings over time because the installations can last anywhere between 25 to 30 years, said Ben Delman, spokesman for Solar United Neighbors.
In addition, home values increase by approximately $15,000 when they have solar power installations, according to a 2015 Berkeley Lab study.
Solar United Neighbors provides more information about home sales, installations and savings for interested residents at their tour locations where home and business owners who went through the entire process of solar installation will be on-hand.
Solar power in Williamsburg
Virginia is currently ranked 17th in the nation for solar power with approximately 69,060 homes powered by solar energy, according to a report from Solar Energy Industries Association. But projections of future solar installations are hoping to see the state rise to ninth place in the next five years.
The National Solar Tour provides resources for those considering solar energy to demonstrate the positive effects and answer questions of concerns.
“This means the participants will have the option to learn about each technical and financial aspect of the installation process,” Creasy said. “Participants will get to see buildings that have solar panels and other efficient features throughout Hampton Roads.”
The push for solar power comes from an environmental standpoint as energy consumption in Virginia is at two-and-a-half times greater than energy production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Solar power comes to counteract this disparity as a form of renewable energy created by sources of fuel that regenerate over short periods of time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This not only impacts the environment because it creates clean sources of energy, but the savings from solar power also tend to impact the local community as well, Delman said.
“You’re able to create jobs by having local companies come and do the installation, and then that money you’re saving can go back into the community,” Delman said. “Typically, the energy that people are using are coming from out of the region and with solar power, you’re generating your own energy right there in your community.”
For Dominion Energy, one of the largest energy providers in the area, their energy from fossil fuels comes from a number of different locations mostly in the Western states such as Ohio and West Virginia, according to the company’s website. These resources are then utilized at power stations across the state, the closest for coal and oil being the power station in Yorktown and the closest for gas is the power station in Chesapeake, according to the company’s website.
“Having solar energy in the community reduces a lot of the cost of transport infrastructure and creates local jobs,” Delman said.
Part of the issue though, is that there aren’t many options for installers in Williamsburg, said Abby Johnson, owner and president of Abacus Property Solutions.
“Solar has a lot of regulatory restriction in Virginia and I think that’s why it’s not huge in every locality,” Johnson said. “I think things are getting better in the state but there hasn’t been enough time to have small companies develop. There’s growth in Virginia but not specifically in Williamsburg.”
Abacus Property Solutions is a real estate advisory firm focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy development, Johnson said. Specifically, Abacus helps businesses finance solar energy implementation which can be more difficult than it is for residential solar energy because of regulations in Virginia.
In 2015, Virginia created legislation to help businesses finance the cost of using renewable energy sources. The PACE legislation is designed to build an agreement between private property owners, lenders and local governments to make energy-related property improvements that benefit all parties, according to the Virginia PACE website.
Still, some of the issues with implementing solar power in businesses involved utility rate structures, lack of interconnection standards, barriers in environmental permitting and a lack of transmission according to the EPA.
With the National Solar Tour, businesses and companies can learn how to move to solar power even with any potential financial or regulatory barriers.
The tour will stop in Williamsburg on from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at 109 Adams St. where an 8.58 kW solar system was installed.
For information, visit the National Solar Tour website.