Welcome to the Town of Blacksburg’s solar resource webpage. As a key part of its environmental, sustainability and climate commitments, Blacksburg is always seeking ways to encourage installation of solar in our community. This webpage represents a collection of solar resources and other information that will make it easy for you to explore your solar options. Solar has really grown in Blacksburg since 2014, when we launched Solarize Blacksburg, the first community solar campaign in Virginia. Five years later, by the summer of 2019, there were more than 100 solar installations on residential and commercial properties throughout the town with more being added every day. Our community’s longer-term solar goals can be found in the 2016 Blacksburg Climate Action Plan as well as the 100% Renewable Energy Resolution passed by Town Council in 2017.
If you’re thinking about going solar, here are two fantastic resources that give you information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar a professional:
- Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power by the Solar Energy Industries Association, and
- Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar published by the U.S. Department of Energy
Policies and Processes
Going solar in Blacksburg is pretty straightforward, but to make it even easier, we’ve created a detailed checklist to walk you through the steps for getting your solar project permitted, approved, installed, and inspected. Note: if you are working with a local solar installer they will likely handle most of these steps for you!
Although the Town of Blacksburg has not yet established formal zoning or subdivision ordinances with regard to solar, solar arrays have been installed in nearly every neighborhood and on every street in the community. This zoning advisory determination memo spells out the circumstances under which solar is considered an allowable accessory use, as well as the those that would trigger additional requirements, restrictions or approval processes, such as ground mount arrays, very large systems, or solar arrays in the historic district or on a contributing structure within the historic district. Solar installations like these may require additional review. If you live in a HOA, you will also want to consult your Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions documents to see if there are any special requirements for siting solar. Please note – HOAs or Neighborhood Associations in Virginia cannot restrict solar through their bylaws. Here are some additional resources on Virginia law regarding HOAs and solar:
- Solarize Blacksburg Presentation: HOAs – Striking A Balance with Solar
- Code of Virginia: Solar Panels; community association’s authority to prohibit
- Guidance on HOAs and Solar Access in Virginia provided by Solar United Neighbors Virginia
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Encouraging Solar Development through Community Association Policies and Processes published by the Solar Foundation (not Virginia specific, but very useful)
Solar energy uses a renewable energy source – the sun – and provides many benefits for individuals and the community. It improves environmental quality by reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, and in Virginia, the solar energy industry supports nearly 4,000 jobs and over 250 companies. Solar saves money on energy costs as the price continues to drop from increasing demand and technological developments, and improves electric grid resilience during peak demand and other stresses to the system. Check out more great information about the economy and employment impacts of solar in Virginia.
Solar Maps and Potential
Investigate your property’s solar potential According to Google’s Project Sunroof, it is estimated that 82% of the rooftops in Blacksburg are viable for solar. You can also estimate the performance of potential PV projects using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator.
Finding a Contractor and Going Solar
Find a solar contractor (or two) to assess your home for solar energy and provide a bid. Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
- Choosing a Solar Installer – an informative short video from the GW Solar Institute explaining the questions to ask and research to conduct prior to going solar.
- Consumer Solar Checklist - a checklist for residential consumers considering solar energy from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council
- Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights – ensuring a positive consumer experience by addressing important issues from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council
- Solar Customer Resource Portal – provides tools that consumers can use to make an informed decision about whether and how to go solar.
Financing, Incentives, and Tax Exemptions
Typically solar installations are paid are made more affordable through Federal and State tax incentives and rebates. Unfortunately, other than allowing for net metering, Virginia does not offer much in the way of solar incentives. Important note: the 30% Federal Tax Credit for residential solar is still in full effect through 2019, and will be phased out starting in 2020.
- A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing – learn about different financing options from CESA, the Clean Energy States Alliance.
- Rooftop Solar Financing 101 – an informative short video from the GW Solar Institute explaining different solar financing options.
Solar Rights and Procedure
Virginia’s solar easement law is similar to those in effect in other states. The Virginia Solar Easements Act of 1978 allows property owners to create binding solar easements for the purpose of protecting and maintaining proper access to sunlight. Here is a summary of Virginia law as it relates to solar rights, solar easements and local ordinances.
Job Training and Educational Opportunities
If you are interested in pursuing employment in the solar energy field, here are some links to regional and national educational courses, programs, and/or trainings offered from colleges, universities, technical institutions, and non-profits.
- New River Community College Alternative Energy Career Studies Certificate
- Licensing Requirements for Solar Installers in Virginia
- The Solar Foundation’s Solar Training Network (Career Connections, Education & Workforce Partnerships)
Blacksburg Solar Projects
In March of 2014, Blacksburg became the first community in Virginia to launch a Solarize campaign, but it certainly wasn’t the last. In a few short months, the Solarize Blacksburg campaign more than quadrupled the amount of residential solar in the Town. Other communities across the Commonwealth took notice and by the close of that year, more than a dozen other localities had launched Solarize or Solar Co-op programs of their own. Looking ahead, Blacksburg continues to collaborate with communities across Virginia to advance favorable solar policy at the state level, to reduce policy and financial obstacles to solar for households, businesses, and institutions.