Greening Burleith: DC Sun

By Francine Steininger, BCA Sustainability Coordinator,

More than 20 Ward 2 residents attended the informative July 23 solar information session hosted by the BCA at the Georgetown Public Library. BCA president Eric Langenbacher welcomed attendees and provided some background on the genesis of the meeting. “Greening Burleith” (aka “aspire to be a more sustainable community”) is one of three new goals the BCA Board identified for our neighborhood; the other two are “preserve Burleith’s multigenerational nature” and “foster diversity.” I volunteered to take the lead for Burleith’s green initiatives and organized this first meeting on solar roof options.

Grant Klein (sitting on table, above) of DC SUN, a nonprofit organization that supports solar in Washington*, presented information about solar energy to the group. He provided an introduction to solar technology, financing, and the steps towards developing a solar energy co-operative. DC-based Solar Solution representatives J.D. Elkurd and Antonio Johnson also answered a number of questions related to the technology and installation process. In July the firm was selected through a competitive bidding process by members of the Ward 2 Solar Co-op to install solar panels on co-op member homes at a discount.

Attendees were very engaged and asked numerous questions. The meeting also included a few participants from Ward 8 who already have a solar co-operative but wanted to get more information about the process and the selected contractor. Some key points that came out of the meeting were:

Solar Incentives and Payback

  • DC currently has the best package of incentives of all the U.S. states.
  • Federal tax incentives will cover 30% of the cost of installing solar electric panels. This tax credit expires at the end of 2016.
  • DC’s aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) creates a strong market for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). Homeowners can sell these SRECs to further offset the cost of installation.
  • With these incentives, payback for investment in solar can be as short as five to six years.

DC Solar Co-operative

  • All DC residents and businesses—regardless of ward location—who are interested in solar power and being part of the bulk discounts available through the co-operative can join the Ward 2 Co-op. Ninety people have already signed up for the co-op. So let your friends or favorite businesses located anywhere in the District know about this opportunity.
  • To take advantage of the approximately 20% discount on panels offered through the co-op, DC residents and businesses need to sign up on DC SUN's website by August 31. Signing up does not obligate you to purchase panels, but simply allows DC SUN and Solar Solution to evaluate whether your home would be suitable for solar power.

Solar Solution

  • Solar Solution, a DC-based solar installation company, was the winner of the bid for installation of solar panel for the Ward 2 Solar Co-op.
  • Solar Solution offers a 10-year warrantee on their installation.
  • Solar Solution also offers a 15-year lease option, where instead of paying for and owning the panels and getting free electricity, you would instead pay for cheaper electricity from the panels. However, the solar incentives only apply to system ownership. After the 15 years Solar Solution gives you the panels.
  • Solar Solution cannot install on slate roofs.

Solar Technology

  • Homes with roofs facing south and that have no tree or chimney shadows are the best candidates.
  • Solar panels are extremely durable, require minimal to no maintenance, and will last about 20–30 years at least; they have been demonstrated to last longer, but manufacturers usually provide a 25-year warrantee.
  • Panels will actually protect your roof from the elements so your roof lasts longer. If you need to replace your roof for any reason, Solar Solution can remove and then reinstall the panels for a fee (on average, about $800).
  • If you move to a new home Solar Solution will move the panels for you free of charge.

Look for more detailed meeting notes which will be uploaded to the website and sent to those on the Burleith solar e-mail list in late August. Please email me if you would like to be added to the list.

In addition, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has just released a general (not DC-specific) Residential Consumer Guide to Solar; you can review this to obtain more information prior to making a decision.

* DC SUN is group of citizens in DC that support solar in Washington, DC. DC SUN strives to make rooftop solar power accessible and affordable for everyone by providing communities with the information, connections, and opportunities they need to move efficiently through the “solarization” process. DC SUN is not allied with any specific company or product, and is able provide unbiased, thoughtful advice based on its extensive industry experience. DC SUN will support residents throughout their solarization process and is supported through 100% volunteer work. DC SUN is composed of individuals, families, businesses, and neighborhood leaders.