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Going Solar One Neighborhood at a Time

2014 May 7

By Jacques Kapuscinksi

Photograph of solar-panel-covered roof.

Soaking up the sun with neighborhood solar.

A couple of years ago my neighbor and I discussed how neat it would be to have solar panels installed on our homes. Our unshaded, flat, and south-facing roofs seemed ideal. Then, while doing research about the economic incentives available in Washington DC, I found out about a nonprofit that is helping neighborhoods organize residential solar group purchases. The savings realized by installing panels on many homes in the same area are passed along to the homeowners—up to 30% less on the total cost of the system.

I decided to establish a Coop in the area where I live, and together we organized forums at a community center, a local library, and at a friend’s home to discuss the process, including the economic and environmental benefits of going solar.

Our initial group of 24 collectively selected a vendor to install our solar panels. We must be on to something, because the number of interested homeowners has now grown to more than 135, and over 25 people have already signed contracts.

In addition to the savings of buying via a coop, a 30% Federal tax credit is available until the end of 2016. Additionally, our local DC utility company is required by law to get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy.  People who install solar panels in Washington DC generate Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs, which the utility buys instead of building their own solar arrays. Homeowners can also sell these credits on an open market. SREC values fluctuate with the market, but right now their value can account for around another 30% of the cost of the system over time.

Another incentive that is not available right now but may be soon is a DC renewable energy rebate. Such a rebate could be as much as $1,500 to $2,000 for each solar-panel-topped home. In 3 to 4 years I will recoup all of my upfront costs, and will have lower utility bills.

Over its 25 to30 year lifetime, a system will generate tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of electricity.  I will be connected to the grid, and thanks to something called “netmetering,” my home will seamlessly switch between using the energy produced on my roof and “rolling over” any excess produced to the grid.

The photovoltaic panels that will be installed have micro-inverters, so each panel will have a monitor attached that feeds into the meter outside of the house, if one of the panels ever goes down I will know immediately.

All of these incentives make solar panels an affordable investment, and a priceless down payment for my children’s future to combat climate change.

About the Author: Jacques Kapuscinski is the Web Content Coordinator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development and is the community manager for EPA’s Science Inventory.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Nick permalink
    May 7, 2014

    I installed a hot water solar system and it has saved us several hundred dollars in a few years. Now that PV systems are much cheaper a whole house system is cheaper than what I paid for just the water system and no piping to worry about. Its the right way to go and should be mandatory on all new development!

  2. Jacques permalink
    May 8, 2014

    That’s awesome that you installed a hot water solar system, and I’m glad you’re having success with it!

    • Deepak Jain permalink
      May 11, 2014

      Great work Jacques. I would like to do the same in Mumbai India where i live.Was wondering if you could help me

  3. David Densford permalink
    May 8, 2014

    When I worked for this company, San Antonio’s electric company and another local electric co-op were pretty aggressive with their incentives and market. The link shows what hey have installed in just a couple of years.

  4. V G Abraham permalink
    May 11, 2014

    I try to educate all through my blog website Solartroniks about using Solar and Renewable energy, but I still need support from like minded people like you to support me in my endeavor especially in India, where I am based.

  5. ashraf newigy permalink
    May 11, 2014

    dear sir

    We Delta Sugar Company
    Are doing a project to generate electricity from solar energy at the site of the company’s northern province of Kafr Al-Shaikh ability of Egypt 3 MWh
    grid connection

  6. niki nkenene permalink
    May 12, 2014

    good article, excellent initiative. I like the co op incentives idea but how can it be introduced in African countries as a means to benefit from this non profit solar group purchases? where do we start?

  7. Justin permalink
    August 6, 2014

    solar is going to have a growing market from 2014 and beyond. Solar Panels manufacturing prices are decreasing while efficiency is going up on the cells themselves.

  8. Jason Hiep permalink
    November 8, 2014

    Energy prices are not dependent on the price of traditional energy sources .
    Green energy technologies increasingly more modern and the price is also much reduced over the years.

    And finally, thank you for advice.

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