Augusta Free Press

Richmond energy, environmental groups launch new solarize program

The Richmond Region Energy Alliance (RREA) announced the launch of their 2015 Solarize RVA program. Elected leaders and solar energy supporters gathered in front of a ground-mounted residential solar panel to mark the incredible milestone achieved by the success of community-purchasing programs for solar panels across Virginia, as well as their support for policies which will continue to increase the availability of solar energy, like President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Since 2014, over 1.6 MW have been installed statewide representing a $5.3 million boost to Virginia’s emerging solar power industry.

“We are thrilled to build on the success of last year’s SolarizeRVA campaign, by returning with a new program in 2015. This iteration will offer solar bulk purchasing pricing for businesses, in addition to residential clients,” said RREA Executive Director Susan Hill.

Richmond Councilman Chris Hilbert told local residents who had gathered to celebrate the launch that “SolarizeRVA is building our community and bringing folks together to embrace climate solutions”.

In a state that offers few incentives for solar installation, and is far behind neighboring North Carolina and Maryland in terms of total solar capacity installed, residents across Virginia are beginning to usher in a clean energy economy with distributed energy production.

“The Solarize programs have demonstrated that solar energy can be successful in Virginia.  Encouraging the continued growth of solar energy will help the state to meet its carbon-reduction goals under the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.  Not only would this help to mitigate future climate change, but investing in energy efficiency and solar energy will also improve our local air and water quality, create new jobs for our residents, and protect public health,” said Dr. Damian Pitt, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University specializing in climate mitigation policies in municipalities.

Virginia State Senator Rosalyn Dance said that “As a parent, grandparent and lawmaker, I am committed to doing my part to ensure that Virginia upholds its’ responsibility to enact laws that ensure our quest for economic viability is in equal concert with our responsibility to protect our environment for all Virginians; now and in our distant future.”

“The solarize programs across the state are good for business, and make the whole process more easily attainable for residents. Although the average price for photovoltaic systems has fallen 13% in the last year, community purchasing makes solar an additional 20-30% cheaper for homeowners, while adding 3rd party quality control assurance on products and services offered to the public.” said Sean Ingles with Integrated Power Systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to finalize new protections limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants within the next three months. The Clean Power Plan will give Virginia the opportunity to design its own implementation strategy which is expected to include solar.