Ultimate Guide to Washington DC Solar Power

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    Washington DC has the most aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard in the country, which is good news for you as a Washington DC homeowner! At Avila Solar, we know that making the decision to go solar is a big one, so we’ve put together this guide with all the facts that you need to know to help you make an informed decision.

    Washington DC Solar Quick Facts

    The price of installing a solar energy system in Washington DC has fallen by 38% over the last 5 years, which means that the current average payback period is about 5 years. On average, homeowners who install solar energy systems save more than $54,000 over 20 years. Generally speaking, the cost per watt in Washington DC is $3.27 on average.

    As of 2020, there are 6,657 solar installations in Washington DC that produce a total of 95 MW. This is enough solar production to power over 14,000 homes. DC currently gets just over 48% of its electricity from solar energy and more than 1,000 DC residents work in the solar industry.

    How Does Solar Energy Work?

    Solar energy works by harvesting photons from the sun’s rays and converting them into usable electrical current. Solar cells are constructed with small amounts of various semiconductor materials embedded in many layers of silicon. Each solar cell is small and very thin, only producing about 1-2 watts. Multiple cells are connected together and formed into a panel with a durable glass or plastic cover and a metal frame.

    Solar panels are commonly mounted on the roof of a home to get the best sun exposure, although ground mounts can be used as well. The best position for solar panels in the DC area is on a sloped, south-facing roof surface that is not shaded by trees or other buildings. Panels are mounted at an angle to account for the sun not being directly overhead due to the latitude that’s higher than the equator.

    Diagram of a typical crystalline silicon solar cell. To make this type of cell, wafers of high-purity silicon are “doped” with various impurities and fused together. The resulting structure creates a pathway for electrical current within and between the solar cells.
    Diagram of a typical crystalline silicon solar cell. To make this type of cell, wafers of high-purity silicon are “doped” with various impurities and fused together. The resulting structure creates a pathway for electrical current within and between the solar cells. SOURCE: SEIA.com

    Many panels can be connected together to scale the solar energy system up large enough to power a home or business. Current flows out of the panels through wires, which are connected to inverters. The inverter converts the direct current electricity into alternating current energy, which is what all of the appliances in your home use.

    Most homes will have a grid-tied solar energy system, which means that you do not completely depend on your solar panels as your only source of energy. Rather, your home will use energy from your solar panels first as it’s produced, and then it will switch to use grid energy at night or during other times when your solar panels are not producing energy.

    Additionally, since Washington DC allows for net metering, you can sell excess solar energy that you don’t use right away to the grid and be compensated with solar renewable energy credits on your utility account that will offset the cost of the grid energy that you use – we’ll cover this process more in-depth later in this article.

    dc home solar on rooftop
    Solar panels connected together in a string.

    Washington DC Solar Panel Costs

    Based on the average cost per watt of $3.27, a typical 5 kW solar energy system would cost an average gross price of $16,350. However, since solar system sizes range somewhat, the average price range should also be noted as between about $14,000 and $19,000. Additionally, these gross price averages are not taking into account solar incentives or the federal investment tax credit, all of which can dramatically reduce the net price by several thousand dollars.

    Average Solar Panel Cost by System Size in Washington DC

    Since solar energy systems range in size depending on your energy consumption, roof size, and other factors, the cost of the entire system can also range dramatically. Let’s look at the average costs for several common solar energy system sizes:

    • 3 kW – $9,810
    • 4 kW – $13,080
    • 5 kW – $16,350
    • 6 kW – $19,620
    • 7 kW – $22,890
    • 8 kW – $26,160
    • 9 kW – $29,430
    • 10 kW – $32,700

    With an average 20-year savings of over $54,000, any size of solar energy system is a great investment and way to save money long term. 

    Washington DC has some of the best solar initiatives in the country. Let’s look at a few of the top offers:

    Washington DC requires utility companies to purchase SRECs to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard, and when you install a solar energy system at your home, you can earn SRECs and in turn, sell them to your utility company. In DC, you can sell SRECs for up to $500 per MWh. So in practical terms, if you install an average 5 kW solar energy system that produces 5 MWh per year, you could make up to $2,500 per year selling the certificates.

    Although adding a solar energy system to your home will increase the property value, thanks to the Solar Energy System and Cogeneration System Personal Property Tax Credit, you will not have to pay any additional property taxes on the increased value due to the addition of your solar energy system.

    As we mentioned above, Washington DC allows for net metering, which means that you can essentially sell your excess solar energy to the grid and be compensated in the form of credits on your account. This policy essentially lets you store your energy for later use without installing a battery system, which saves you from wasting your solar energy.

    Your solar energy system will produce the most power during the middle of the day, but that is generally when most people are at work or school and not using lights or other appliances. Conversely, in the evenings when energy usage is the highest, your solar panels will be producing little to no energy. By selling the energy that your panels produce during the day to your utility company, you can then offset your energy usage later in the day

    This low-income solar program in DC is an incredible and unique incentive that offers rebates of up to $10,000 to cover the entire cost of a 3-4 kW solar energy system for low-income DC residents. This first-come, first-served program allows participants to own the system and the energy that it produces, as well as the SRECs the system generates which they can then sell to utility companies as mentioned above.

    The federal investment tax credit for solar allows homeowners and business owners who install solar energy systems to deduct 26% of the cost from their federal tax liability amount. If the credit amount exceeds your tax liability amount for the year, excess credit can be rolled over to subsequent years for as long as the tax credit is in effect.

    However, the deduction amount will be reduced to 22% in 2021, and in 2022 and beyond, there will be no deduction for homeowners and business owners will only be able to deduct 10% of the cost of the installation. Anyone in the country is eligible for this tax credit as long as you own the system rather than lease it. If you want to take advantage of this significant tax break, call us today to get started and get the maximum benefit amount.

    What If I Can’t Install Solar Where I’m Located?

    There are a few reasons that you may not be able to install solar at your current location, such as renting the property, having too much shade on your roof, the roof is oriented the wrong way, the roof is too old or the material is unsuitable, and so forth. If for any reason you cannot install solar at your home or business, you can still get involved and invested in solar by subscribing to a community solar system.

    Community Solar is the Answer

    Community solar systems allow members of the community to share the benefits of solar power by subscribing to the project which offsets the installation costs, and then they receive credit on their electricity bill for a share of the energy produced by the community solar system.

    Can Solar be Financed?

    The price of solar energy systems has decreased dramatically over recent years while financing opportunities have increased greatly. Solar energy systems are increasingly recognized as sustainable home improvement projects and loans are much easier to get. Many financial institutions will allow financing and most states have favorable loan requirements for solar energy projects. At Avila Solar, we can help you find the financing option that’s best for you.

    Do I Qualify for Solar Panels?

    Contact us at Avila Solar today for a free consultation to learn whether your location is optimal for installing a solar energy system. Our team of experts will work with you to meet your solar goals by installing a solar energy system that will fit your energy consumption rates, budget, and any other criteria that you may have.

    DC Solar Drafting Services

    We help solar companies streamline their installation process by providing them with streamlined solar drafting services. If you are a solar company looking to reduce headaches and costs from your permitting process then consider hiring us. We offer accurate services t and a 6-month period where changes are made for free! 

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