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Solar Panels in Virginia: Cost, Savings, and Rebates

Solar Panels in Virginia: A Bright Future for Clean Energy and Cost Savings

Over the past decade, solar energy has been booming across the United States as more Americans realize the environmental and financial benefits of switching to clean power. The solar industry has experienced rapid growth, and Virginia is no exception. With plentiful sunshine, supportive policies, and a growing green energy movement, the Old Dominion is poised to become a solar powerhouse in the coming years.

In 2021 alone, Virginia installed nearly 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity – enough to power over 250,000 homes. The state now ranks 4th in the Southeast for total installed solar and experts project installations to more than double in the next 5 years. For Virginia homeowners considering making the switch, there has never been a better time. Solar panels offer the opportunity to drastically reduce or even eliminate your electric bills, increase your energy independence, and lower your carbon footprint.

But with a significant upfront investment, many wonder if solar is really worth it from a financial perspective. The great news is that with current solar costs in Virginia, valuable incentives, and high electricity rates to offset, most homeowners will see substantial long-term savings by going solar. In this article, we‘ll break down all the key information you need to understand the costs and money-saving potential of solar panels in Virginia. Let‘s dive in!

Average Cost of Solar Panels in Virginia
The first question most people have when considering solar is: how much will it cost? Solar installations are priced based on the power capacity of the system, measured in kilowatts (kW). The larger the system, the more energy it can produce and the more it will cost.

According to recent data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the average cost of solar panels in Virginia is $2.66 per watt. This is slightly higher than the U.S. average of $2.49/W but lower than most of Virginia‘s neighboring Mid-Atlantic states. At this price, a typical 6 kilowatt (kW) home solar system would cost around $15,960 before incentives.

However, this is just the average and actual costs can vary quite a bit based on a variety of factors like your location, equipment, installer, and available incentives (more on those later). On the lower end, some Virginia homeowners are able to install solar for closer to $2.25/W while others may pay over $3.00/W for premium equipment and services.

It‘s also important to consider these costs in the context of Virginia‘s high electricity prices. Homeowners in VA pay an average of 12.5¢ per kilowatt-hour for electricity – about 18% more than the national average. Those high utility rates mean more potential savings each month by offsetting or eliminating your electric bill with solar.

How Much Solar Do Virginians Need?
Every home is unique in its energy needs so it‘s important to size your solar system according to your specific usage. You don‘t want to pay for more solar than you need but you also want to make sure you maximize your savings.

In Virginia, the average household uses about 1,095 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month, or 36.5 kWh per day. With the state‘s average of 4.13 peak sun hours per day, that means a typical home would need an 8.8 kW solar system to fully meet its energy needs (36.5 kWh / 4.13 sun hours = 8.8 kW).

At Virginia‘s average price of $2.66/W, an 8.8 kW system would cost $23,400 before incentives – quite a bit higher than the 6 kW example above. However, larger systems also provide greater savings and generally have a lower cost per watt. An 8.8 kW system would nearly eliminate an average $137 monthly electric bill and pay for itself even faster.

To get a more precise estimate for your home, you‘ll need to look at your past energy bills to see how much electricity you typically use. Most solar installers also provide free home assessments where they can calculate your ideal system size and projected savings.

Virginia Solar Cost Factors
Solar equipment and installation costs in Virginia can vary substantially based on a number of factors:

Sunlight and Location: Virginia‘s diverse geography means solar exposure can differ quite a bit across the state. For example, Roanoke receives about 15% more peak sun hours than Newport News. More sun means more electricity production and savings.

Equipment Type: Higher efficiency solar panels cost more upfront but can generate greater savings over time, especially in less sunny areas. Most Virginians opt for premium monocrystalline panels for maximum output.

Roof Characteristics: The size, age, material, and orientation of your roof can all impact installation costs. South-facing roofs with ample space and little shading are ideal for solar.

Installer Experience: Virginia has over 85 solar companies to choose from. More experienced installers may charge higher prices for their expertise and premium equipment offerings. Newer companies often have lower prices but be sure to vet their quality and track record.

By evaluating these and other factors in your solar estimates, you can find the system and installer that will provide the best performance and value for your home.

Best Solar Installers in Virginia
Choosing the right solar installer is arguably the most important decision you‘ll make in your solar journey. You‘ll want to work with an experienced contractor who uses high-quality equipment, offers strong customer service, and provides comprehensive long-term system warranties. Here are two of the top local solar installers in Virginia:

  1. Nova Solar – With over a decade of experience serving Virginia homeowners, Nova Solar is one of the most trusted installers in the state. The Falls Church-based company uses premium equipment from brands like LG and Panasonic paired with lengthy 25-year workmanship warranties for peace of mind. Nova Solar‘s team of NABCEP-certified installers and history of quality service has earned them hundreds of 5-star customer reviews over the years.

  2. Stable Solar – Stable Solar is a local Virginia installer that‘s built a reputation for attentive service, honest pricing, and excellent craftsmanship. The company offers a lowest price guarantee and will match any competitor‘s quote using the same equipment. Stable Solar provides 25-year warranties and uses an in-house team of master electricians for all installations. With hundreds of installations across the state, they are a solid choice for Virginia homeowners.

While these are two of the top choices, it‘s always a good idea to get multiple quotes from vetted installers to find the best fit for your home and budget. Services like EnergySage allow you to receive and compare competing solar quotes from pre-screened installers in your area. Taking the time to thoroughly explore your options can ensure you maximize your solar savings.

Solar Payback and Savings in Virginia
The upfront price of solar is a major consideration but it‘s also important to understand the investment return you can expect over the life of the system. In other words, how much will you actually save with solar and how long will it take to recoup your initial costs?

In Virginia, the average annual electricity bill is around $1,650. By offsetting that entire bill with an 8.8 kW solar system, homeowners could expect to pay off the $23,400 cost in about 9.5 years, assuming 2% annual inflation in electricity rates. After the payback period, they would enjoy completely free electricity for the remaining 15+ year lifespan of the system. Over 25 years, that comes out to over $43,000 in total electricity savings!

Here‘s how the numbers break down:
8.8 kW system cost (before incentives): $23,400
Average annual electricity savings: $1,650
Payback period: 9.5 years
25-year savings: $43,600
Keep in mind, these are conservative estimates and many homeowners are able to pay off their systems even faster with available incentives and higher electric rates. Actual payback periods and savings will vary based on your specific home, energy usage, and system characteristics.

Virginia Solar Incentives and Rebates
To encourage the adoption of solar energy, the federal government, Virginia, and many local utilities offer generous incentives that can greatly reduce the upfront cost of going solar. Here are some of the most valuable programs available to Virginia homeowners:

  1. Federal Solar Tax Credit
    The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the single biggest incentive for solar in the U.S. This program allows you to deduct 30% of your total solar costs, including equipment and installation, from your federal income taxes. For an 8.8 kW system in Virginia, that translates to a $7,000 tax credit. The 30% rate is available through 2032 before stepping down to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034.

  2. Net Metering
    Net metering allows you to send any excess solar electricity your panels produce back to the grid in exchange for credits on your electric bill. Those credits can then be used to offset your electricity costs during times when your panels are producing less power, like at night or on cloudy days. Virginia requires all investor-owned utilities to offer net metering to their solar customers.

  3. Property Tax Exemption
    When you install solar panels, your home value is expected to increase by about 4%. Normally that would mean paying higher property taxes but Virginia allows local governments to exempt solar installations from property tax assessments. Check with your city or county to see if the exemption is available in your area.

  4. Local Utility Rebates
    Some Virginia utilities and local governments offer their own solar rebates to customers in their territory. For example, BARC Electric Cooperative provides a $500 rebate for solar installations and the City of Alexandria offers a limited solar rebate of $0.50/W, up to $2,500. Check with your local utility and government to see if there are any additional incentives available.

By taking advantage of these generous solar incentives in Virginia, you can drastically lower the upfront cost of your installation and accelerate your savings. Be sure to discuss all available incentives with your installer to ensure you don‘t miss out on any valuable programs.

The Future of Solar in Virginia
Virginia has some of the most aggressive clean energy goals in the country and solar will play a major role in achieving them. The 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act requires the state‘s two largest utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, to be 100% carbon-free by 2045 and 2050 respectively. The bill also sets a target for those utilities to produce thirty percent of their electricity from renewables by 2030. Other policies like a solar property tax exemption also aim to boost installations across the state.

These supportive policies, combined with the rapidly falling cost of solar, signal a bright future for solar energy in Virginia. Experts predict the state will add over 6,000 MW of solar capacity in the next five years – nearly quadruple the amount installed today. For Virginia homeowners, solar panels offer an increasingly attractive opportunity to save money, gain energy independence, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

"Solar just makes sense in Virginia now more than ever," says Andrew Skinner, owner of Nova Solar. "Between the high electric rates, plentiful sunshine, and great incentives, homeowners can see a strong return on their investment while doing something good for the planet. We see more and more people every day realizing the benefits of solar."

As you consider solar for your Virginia home, be sure to thoroughly evaluate your options and find a reputable installer you trust. Taking the time to understand your unique needs and get multiple quotes can ensure you get the most value for your solar investment. And with the current incentives and cost savings available, there‘s never been a better time to make the switch to clean, affordable solar power.