Column: Solar Coming to Reston—At Last?

Column: Solar Coming to Reston—At Last?

Independent Progressive

Do you ever wonder why there seem to be almost no solar panels in Reston? You’d think that this generally progressive planned community inspired by visionary Robert Simon would in fact be a leader in using solar technology. You’d think Restonians would be working hard to cut our fossil fuel guzzling and to reduce our carbon footprint for coming generations, especially now, with ever more efficient and competitively priced solar technology.

So, when a couple of new homeowners in Lake Anne’s Washington Plaza Cluster [WPC], Reston’s first cluster, asked how to go about checking out solar for their homes, there was a pause. No one knew anyone with solar in our cluster or anywhere in Reston! We checked with the Reston Association, but no luck.

Someone said they had heard that the Design Review Board was the problem. I checked with a neighbor who had served on the DRB. He assured me that there should be no problem for WPC getting DRB approval for solar panels because our homes have flat roofs. Thus, the panels installed at a very slight angle on our roofs would be invisible from below! The DRB standards published on the RA website did not contradict this, stating only that solar “collectors” must be compatible with the roofs, presumably as seen from the ground.

A leader of the Sierra Club referred us to SOLARIZE, two non-profits working together to promote renewable energy in Northern Virginia. Our cluster team has begun conversations with SOLARIZE, and thus far we are impressed. What they offer is expertise and experience in solar energy and pre-vetted solar installers to engineer solar installations fitted to our individual home circumstances --at prices better than standard market rates.

Three of our homes have been inspected by the prospective installer and homeowners are awaiting contract proposals from this firm selected by SOLARIZE. Once we have the detailed proposals, complete with costs, we plan to invite SOLARIZE to make a presentation to all Washington Plaza Cluster homeowners, complete with the examples of the proposed contracts, and see how many owners wish to sign up for solar in their homes.

Our house was one of those inspected for possible installation. The installer interviewed us during the inspection and explained the basics of solar power and engineering challenges they might encounter working on roofs like ours. He explained that the sun’s power from the panels would not be stored, but would go directly into providing our electricity as needed. Our Dominion Power meter would automatically reflect our use of solar power in lieu of Dominion energy and, in the event the panels generated more energy than we consumed, any surplus would also be credited to our account. They did not expect there would be a major surplus. Furthermore, we and the installer will be able to observe energy amounts generated and used, and how the system operates in real time online. In addition, we will be eligible for a 30 percent federal income tax credit for solar.

We are excited and encouraged. If the product and price convince even a dozen WPC homeowners to install solar, it will be major. Who knows? A breakthrough here could be the spark Reston needs to get serious about solar energy. To see for yourselves how SOLARIZE works, go to: