State of Solar Update

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, including what, if any, impact current events might have on the renewable energy industry. Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, solar was making great legislative strides, and the outlook still looks promising! Ryan Van Patten, LEAP’s Solar Program Manager, gives us insight on the latest progress and what the future holds.

The recent legislative session in Virginia has been considered a big move forward for the state’s solar industry. To highlight a few major points: the Solar Freedom Bill has allowed the increased deployment of solar by raising the total cap on net-metered solar from 1 percent to 6 percent (including 1 percent for low- to moderate-income homes and the remaining 5 percent for everyone else); increasing the program cap on power purchase agreements (PPAs) from 50 MW to 500 MW for Dominion jurisdictional customers (another 500 MW for non-jurisdictional customers, which include local governments and public schools); and the removal of standby charges for residential systems less than 5 kW. To learn about more of the improvements, check out Virginia Mercury’s article, “New laws clear away barriers to small solar projects.”

Over the last five years, we have conducted multiple Solarize campaigns and unfortunately have seen many potential solar installations get denied by Home Owners’ Associations (HOAs) for unreasonable restrictions. Another great ‘solar win’ to come from the recent session is a result of HB414 and SB504, which have better defined what is and is not considered a ‘reasonable restriction’ for solar installations, limiting the power of HOAs to deny installation approval. This new legislation has now stated that a restriction is not reasonable if it either, (i) increases the cost of installation of the solar energy collection device by five percent over the projected cost of the initially proposed installation or (ii) reduces the energy production by the solar energy collection device by 10 percent below the projected energy production of the initially proposed installation.

LEAP partnered with ReisingerGooch PLC to create a guide to help residents and HOAs with a review of relevant law and solar benefits for homeowners.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the industry was on track to add 50,000 jobs and invest $25 billion in 2020. Unfortunately, with the recent global events, SEIA has now stated that up to half of the 250,000-person solar workforce in the United States could be lost in the coming weeks, and has asked Congress to implement specific changes to help stimulate the solar industry in their April factsheet.

It’s not all grim, as many solar companies are still working hard to keep projects moving forward while tightening their safety protocols. Germany even reported that energy produced by solar has broken their previous records and has further reduced the need for coal-fired power plants.

Are you looking to go solar? LEAP’s Solarize 2020 outreach campaigns have been postponed, but we can still get you connected with one of the participating solar installers, who are already honoring the negotiated Solarize prices. To follow physical distancing guidelines, solar installers are conducting meetings virtually, and can answer questions through phone calls and emails. Please contact us today if you are interested.

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