Prince William County homeowners have no current county or state incentives to install renewable energy solar systems. If, in spite of this, they do choose to install a solar system, navigating the current county process is a true disincentive. The process is too expensive and too difficult. Local businesses are also lacking in incentives to install solar.
Solar installations must be rewarded, not penalized. The only way Prince William County and Virginia will achieve their solar energy goals is by making distributed residential and business solar energy production more attractive and easier to achieve.
We started researching a solar system for our property in 2015. We finally contracted for a system in September of 2020. In December of 2020, we had a 10.7 kW solar array installed on our home’s standing-seam metal roof. It took six weeks for our design to make it through the county’s review and approval process, and the system was finally installed, inspected, approved and operational two weeks after that – but it required multiple interventions and escalations during those eight weeks.
County fees for our simple solar installation totaled $700. With solar systems starting to become a bit more affordable, these fees are unjustified and exorbitant, and the process is too painful. The only incentive we can currently benefit from for our solar installation is the federal income tax solar credit.
While navigating the many challenging issues we experienced to get our solar installation up and running, we were told by multiple solar installers that the county’s solar process, when compared with other jurisdictions, is “the most expensive and arduous we have to deal with” that “we have to re-invent the wheel and resubmit numerous times” and that the county’s process is “renowned around the country for how bad it is.”
Prince William County and the state of Virginia have too many obstacles for citizens and businesses to be able to successfully embrace and install solar energy systems. This has to change.
Our county must make solar process and incentive improvements if it is to accomplish its commitment for 100% electricity from renewable sources within 15 years – by 2035.
We are just one of many in our county who are trying to do the right thing for our environment and also to benefit by going solar. We truly need the help of county leadership now to turn this situation around. We have submitted recommendations this month to PWC leadership, based on our experience, listing improvements which our county, and our state, must make now. These incentives and process improvements are desperately needed, and we believe will far more effectively attract and incentivize many more county residents and businesses to go solar.
We welcome an opportunity for citizens to work with our county leadership to make county solar processes and incentives better.
The Prince William County Planning Commission is holding a work session on the Solar Panel Process on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. and citizens are invited to join and comment.
Karen and Tom Sheehan