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A Solar Panel Primer for DC Residents

by Nena Perry-Brown

Earlier this year, the Office of Planning proposed a text amendment which would encourage solar farming citywide, expanding the potential for renewable energy usage in DC. As the Zoning Commission prepares to rule on the amendment later this month, UrbanTurf is taking a look at the current options for DC residents interested in taking advantage of solar power.

(Updated) DC solar potential map, courtesy of Mapdwell. Click to enlarge.

For homeowners, several incentives are available for those interested in installing solar panels, including the Investment Tax Credit that can offset the cost of solar panels by up to 30 percent. The Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) has a tool which identifies the solar potential data specific to an individual address, including the potential kilowatt hours of solar yield, the number of panels needed to achieve that potential, and the likely cost of the solar array, minus the value of the federal tax credit. 

The DOEE tool also provides the potential average monthly and yearly revenue from the panels, estimated equivalent effect of or carbon offset by the installation (eg. number of trees planted, miles travelled by car or plane, etc.), and how long it would take the system to pay for itself. 

EnergySage enables homeowners to compare installation cost estimates from several providers. For those unable to purchase a solar panel system outright, there are also options to finance them. 

For homes in a historic district, any rooftop solar installations will need approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). A recent decision in the Takoma Historic District indicates that there may be more leniency in reviewing street-facing solar installations than previously shown. It may also be wise for homeowners to look into the rules governing the zone where their house is located and be mindful of what could potentially be constructed on adjacent and nearby lots, as an ongoing zoning appeal indicates that the impact of development on existing solar installations may not always be considered when building permits are approved.

Low-income homeowners, who may not have the savings to purchase a solar installation outright, also have options to get panels installed, either by applying to participate in a solar co-op (such as this large one for Ward 8 residents, currently undergoing zoning review) or by leasing panels to be installed. Renters, or those whose homes may not be good candidates for a solar installation, can also take advantage of solar power by opting into one of DOEE's Solar for All projects. 

See other articles related to: solar power, solar panels, solar panel, dc solar panels

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a-solar-panel-primer-for-dc-residents/15274

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