Virginia schools among top in U.S. to utilize solar energy (2023)

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These are a few of the panels that Sun Tribe Solar of Charlottesville was installing atop Powhatan Middle School nearly three years ago.

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  • 2019, ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/Times-dispatch

(L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. 11/27/2019: (L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND These are a few of the solar panels that Sun Tribe is installing on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND These are a few of the solar panels that Sun Tribe is installing on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Sun Tribe workers install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. They are also beginning to install solar panels at Powhatan Elementary School in the background. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Sun Tribe workers install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. They are also beginning to install solar panels at Powhatan Elementary School in the background. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, a

  • ALEXA WELCH EDLUND

Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. 11/27/2019: (L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND These are a few of the solar panels that Sun Tribe is installing on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND These are a few of the solar panels that Sun Tribe is installing on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Sun Tribe workers install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. They are also beginning to install solar panels at Powhatan Elementary School in the background. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Sun Tribe workers install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. They are also beginning to install solar panels at Powhatan Elementary School in the background. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, a

  • ALEXA WELCH EDLUND

(L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. 11/27/2019: (L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) James Parker, Zach Davis, Rory Smyth and Adrian Walton, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND These are a few of the solar panels that Sun Tribe is installing on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND These are a few of the solar panels that Sun Tribe is installing on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Rory Smyth with Sun Tribe, installs solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Sun Tribe workers install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. They are also beginning to install solar panels at Powhatan Elementary School in the background. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND Sun Tribe workers install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. They are also beginning to install solar panels at Powhatan Elementary School in the background. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, all with Sun Tribe, install solar panels on top of Powhatan Middle School Wednesday, November 13, 2019. ALEXA WELCH EDLUND (L-R) Zach Davis, James Parker, Adrian Walton and Rory Smyth, a

  • ALEXA WELCH EDLUND

Anna Bryson

(Video) Solar Workforce Development and West Virginia's Bright Future ft Autumn Long, Appalachian Voices

Virginia school divisions are on track to save millions by using solar energy.

Over the past two years, the solar capacity of Virginia’s K-12 schools has more than doubled, according to data from Charlottesville-based advocacy organization Generation180.

The progress was largely spurred by a policy change in Virginia allowing tax-exempt entities like schools and localities to use third-party power purchase agreements.

With these agreements, solar developers own and maintain the system for the life of the agreement, or typically around 25 years. In return, the school district purchases the solar energy produced. The contracts allow schools to go solar with no upfront capital costs.

School divisions save millions by paying for solar power, which is much cheaper than standard electricity.

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“That’s important for school districts around Virginia because it’s typically the second-highest cost for schools after staffing,” said Tish Tablan, program director for Generation180. “Instead of paying that money to the utility, that’s money they can now reinvest into students, into teacher pay and to learning.”

About 94% of the solar capacity installed by K-12 schools was funded through third-party ownership.

Virginia ranks ninth in the U.S. for cumulative solar capacity in K-12 schools and ranks 13th in the nation for the total number of schools with solar. There are now 154 schools powered by solar — an increase of 65 schools over the past two years.

Hanover County Public Schools has four of its schools powered by solar through a contract with Sun Tribe Solar, a Charlottesville solar energy company.

The four projects have saved the school division more than $100,000 each year, and the savings should increase as host utility rates rise.

Historically, host utility rates have increased at a predictable level, but in recent years, they have risen dramatically. Hanover Public Schools was expected to save $183,000 between 2020 and 2022, but actually saved about $202,000 due to the rising cost of standard electricity.

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In Henrico County, three schools — Highland Springs High School, J.R. Tucker High School and Holladay Elementary — are in the final stages of solar installation and will begin operating later this fall.

Virginia schools among top in U.S. to utilize solar energy (5)

The Henrico school division executed power purchase agreements last year with five schools: Glen Allen High, Harvie Elementary, Holman Middle, Kaechele Elementary and Colonial Trail Elementary. Solar will be installed at those schools in the future, but the exact timeline is unknown, according to Carrie Webster, the county’s energy manager.

Henrico, which has active solar installations in other county facilities, projects it will save $4 million over 25 years with its installed or planned solar projects.

Two large solar arrays will soon be installed in Southwest Virginia, in two localities that have historically been coal mining communities: Wise County and Lee County.

In Wise County, the five schools that will go solar will cover almost half of the energy needs at the division’s schools. According to the solar developer, the school division is expected to save $7.5 million over the 35-year lifetime of the solar array.

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FAQs

Is Virginia a good state for solar? ›

Solar power in Virginia

Virginia is a top-ranking state for solar energy generation, thanks to the state's continued investment in renewable energy. Now is a good time to consider installing solar panels on your Virginia home.

How many schools in the US use solar energy? ›

The report found the U.S. is home to 8,409 solar schools, with over 6.1 million students in attendance. Many K-12 schools are giving students hands-on STEM learning opportunities and job training for solar careers, using solar development and installation as a case study.

How the solar energy can be the best for the school? ›

Using solar panels for school can help you reduce pollution and carbon footprint. Also, if you wish to run your school sustainably and independently, then it is a good idea to lower your dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels and the grid. And that can happen by installing solar panels on your rooftop.

Does Virginia have a solar program? ›

Solar Energy Facilities

By partnering with Dominion Energy's solar initiative, your land could earn you money today while generating clean energy for years to come. Listing of both the completed and under-construction solar projects in Virginia.

Are solar panels free in Virginia? ›

In Virginia, there's no government program to install solar panels without cost. Otherwise, getting solar at home in Virginia without any upfront cost means getting your solar system financed, either through a loan or a lease.

How much is solar panels in Virginia? ›

As of Oct 2022, the average cost of solar panels in Virginia is $2.66 per watt making a typical 6000 watt (6 kW) solar system $11,159 after claiming the 30% federal solar tax credit now available.

Why should schools use solar energy? ›

Energy cost savings, increased academic and job training opportunities, greater financing options, lower emissions to combat climate change and air pollution, and reliable backup power make solar panels a win-win for nearly every school or school district.

How can solar energy be used in schools? ›

Installing solar enables your school to run on clean energy while at the same time combatting greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. In addition, especially with an on-site solar installation, it reduces dependence on outsourced fossil fuels and promotes renewable energy use in the surrounding area.

Why schools need solar panels? ›

Reducing energy costs

From lighting and air conditioning to computer labs and audiovisual equipment, energy demands in the education sector are high. Rising power bills are an ongoing concern for many schools, with turbulent prices making it difficult to budget for other essential resources.

How much solar panels are needed for school? ›

(ii) In case you're aware of the average monthly electricity bill, divide that number by 1000 to get a system size that will bring your bills down to zero. For example, if you pay Rs. 50,000 every month, 50000/1000 = 50 kilowatt of solar power required.

What are the advantages of solar energy? ›

Some advantages of solar energy include:
  • Reduced electric bill.
  • Insurance against rising energy costs.
  • Cheaper power source.
  • Return on investment.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Energy independence.
5 Oct 2020

How can solar energy be used to power homes schools and businesses? ›

The most commonly used solar technologies for homes and businesses are solar photovoltaics for electricity, passive solar design for space heating and cooling, and solar water heating. Businesses and industry use solar technologies to diversify their energy sources, improve efficiency, and save money.

How many homes in Virginia have solar panels? ›

With a population of around 8.5 million people, it definitely has room for expansion of its solar capacity. VA currently ranks 11th in the USA by their solar installed and the 2.5GW are enough to power around 280,000 households.
...
Virginia Solar Statistics.
DescriptionStatus
% of State's Electricity from Solar1.99%
11 more rows
28 Jun 2022

Does Virginia have solar renewable energy credits? ›

Incentives and Solar Tax Exemptions in Virginia*

The 26% federal solar tax credit is available for purchased solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed by December 31, 2022. Property tax exemption on the added home value from the solar equipment. (Tax exemption value varies by VA county, city, or town.)

How long do solar panels last? ›

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic or PV panels, are made to last more than 25 years. In fact, many solar panels installed as early as the 1980s are still working at expected capacity. Not only are solar panels remarkably reliable, solar panel longevity has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

Can you lease solar panels in Virginia? ›

Leasing. There's no option to lease a solar power system in Virginia, so a third alternative if you want to switch to solar is to use a HELOC to do it, even if you have only a little equity. Go for a smaller 2kW solar energy system instead.

Can I get solar panels for free? ›

Only some energy companies are participating in the free solar panel scheme. You can find a list of the companies here. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can ask any of the participating energy companies for a grant—you don't need to go through your own provider unless you want to.

Can Hoa restrict solar panels in Virginia? ›

Virginia's solar rights law means that bylaws cannot prevent homeowners from installing solar panels on their property. The only way a homeowners' association that does not have a rule against solar panel installation in its recorded declaration could create such a rule would be to change the recorded declaration.

Does Virginia have a solar tax credit? ›

Incentives and Solar Tax Exemptions in Virginia*

The 26% federal solar tax credit is available for purchased solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed by December 31, 2022. Property tax exemption on the added home value from the solar equipment. (Tax exemption value varies by VA county, city, or town.)

Can you put solar panels on a townhouse in Virginia? ›

Yes, a solar system can be installed on a townhome. How much does it cost? The cost depends on the number of panels installed and whether your site is suitable for rooftop solar or ground-mounted solar.

Are SRECs available in Virginia? ›

SRECs can be sold for up to five calendar years after their date of creation in Virginia. Therefore, customers with GATS-registered systems who generate an SREC today will be able to sell their SREC up until the end of 2026.

How much are SRECs worth in VA? ›

Spot data for the Virginia REC - Small Distributed market
VINTAGESELL NOW PRICESETTLEMENT PRICE
2022$50.00$50.00
2021$50.00$50.00
2020$50.00$50.00
2019$50.00$50.00
2 more rows

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