SRO at Solar Information Meeting at SE Library Wednesday Night
by Larry Janezich
More than 50 residents attended the standing room only briefing on the advantages of going solar and how to join the (currently) 30 member Lincoln Park Co-op formed to participate in a bulk purchase installation of solar energy systems.
Solar advocates Anya Schoolman, founder of the non-profit solar installation coordinating group, DC Sun, and Sam Polino, Program Director of Solar Co-ops, walked those at Wednesday night’s meeting through the technology, the Co-op participation process, and the costs of going solar.
The bottom line, they say, is that installing solar is a very good deal for District residents right now and there are financing options, including some suitable for low income households.
Schoolman and DC Sun are soliciting additional participants District-wide to join the Lincoln Park Co-op. The time frame is such that interested parties can sign up within the next 30 days to receive updates and information on the progress of the Co-op as it moves toward the beginning of the installation process.
Signing up now involves no commitment to participate in the Co-op. The Lincoln Park group will send out a notice to solar system installers soon, asking for bids to install systems on Co-op members’ homes for a set price. Members of the Co-op will select a developer to engage for the group installation, and Co-op members will have 30 days to commit to having solar installed. Installations progress in the order in which people sign up, with the first members having their systems installed within a few days. Those who join later may have to wait six to eight months.
The installation price will depend on how large your system is, measured by the number of solar panels your roof can accommodate. Most Capitol Hill homes will install 2 Kilowatt to 5 Kilowatt systems.
According to the DC Sun website, the cost for the typical 3 Kilowatt system before incentives is $10,500. At the end of the first year, after deducting 1. the Co-op discount ($1500), 2. the $30% one-time federal tax CREDIT ($2700), 3. the estimated one year savings on electricity ($465), and 4. the proceeds from the sale of SRECs* – Solar Renewable Energy Certificates – ($3900), the cost of installation drops to $1935. The life time of the panels is 20 years or so, meaning the annual savings in electricity will last about that long, or longer.
For more information, go here: http://www.dcsun.org/ and click on “Join a Solar Group” to get the the Lincoln Park Co-op page.
*SREC – Solar Renewable Energy Certificate.
Regulations require Exelon (formerly Pepco) to produce a percentage of their electricity from solar. Since Exelon doesn’t have any solar production capacity, regulations provide that they can satisfy the requirement by purchasing SREC’s from people who do have solar panels. The value is determined by the market subject to supply and demand. In the District, local government requires Exelon to have a higher percentage of their electricity from solar – than, say Maryland – so SREC’s are more valuable here than in Maryland. Demand for SRECs is expected to remain high in the District for at least the next five years as supply catches up with demand. Solar producers can sell their SREC’s and receive a one time lump sum, as in the calculation above. It’s likely, however, that most buyers of solar systems will anticipate that the demand will be high for the next few years, and will arrange for a broker to sell their SRECs on the open market and receive quarterly payments which will amount to a much larger total than the one time lump sum payment. The latter process involves registering with a broker who handles all aspects of the sale and sends you four checks a year. Your installer will estimate how many SRECs your system will produce annually. One SREC is currently worth about $480 in DC.
[Full Disclosure: CHC participated in a previous Ward 6 bulk purchase in 2014 coordinated by DC-Sun, joining very late in the process after the installer had been chosen. Observations from that experience: 1) going solar is an excellent investment, providing sound financial returns and the satisfaction of improving the environment and contributing to the public good – CHC would do it again; 2) selection of the installer is of prime importance and a through vetting of a company’s experience in handling a large number of installations is essential, as well as the quality of the components of the systems which the company proposes to install; 3) in 2014, the process of shepherding the paperwork through Pepco was burdensome for the system owner – some thought that Pepco was not devoting enough resources to processing paperwork. DC Sun, through the Public Utilities Commission, says it has taken action to alleviate the difficulties encountered by previous participants in group purchases. 4) the DC Public Utility Commission is extremely responsive in interceding with Pepco on behalf of solar system purchasers who encounter difficulties with (Pepco/Exelon)].