A new program being piloted this month in Loudoun County is aimed at making solar power more affordable for residents of Northern Virginia.

The Solarize NOVA program enables Loudoun homeowners to take advantage of free home assessments and bulk purchasing discounts to reduce the costs of powering their homes with solar energy, according to a statement by Leesburg officials.

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the nonprofit Local Energy Alliance Program, the initiative’s co-sponsors, said that they plan to expand the program to Prince William and Fairfax counties next year.

Through Nov. 30, homeowners can sign up online for an assessment by LEAP staff members, who can help determine the suitability of the home for solar power and inform homeowners about financing options, said Cynthia Adams, executive director of LEAP.

After a representative of LEAP conducts a walk-through evaluation of the home, one of three solar installers participating in the program will perform an assessment and put together a proposal for the installation. Once the homeowners receive a proposal from the contractor, they have 30 days to sign the contract, Adams said. The program offers savings to the contractors, Adams said, which, in turn, can be passed on to the customers.

A 30 percent federal tax credit, which can be spread out over several years, is available to help homeowners offset the cost of the solar power system, and special loans are available to help homeowners cover their costs until the tax credits kick in, Adams said.

The pilot program is off to a good start in Loudoun, Adams said, with more than 150 online requests for assessments and two contracts signed for installation. A similar program in Charlottesville has resulted in 70 signed contracts, she said, and she expects that number to climb to 100 by the time the program ends there.

Adams said that the three solar contractors participating in the program are all based in Loudoun and that the companies have agreed to use only American-made parts.

“It’s important for the local residents to know they’re supporting something that helps provide economic stimulus in their area,” Adams said.

Robert W. Lazaro, who is overseeing the Northern Virginia Regional Commission’s partnership with LEAP, said that Solarize NOVA will eventually expand into the rest of Northern Virginia.

“Our goal is to move east and south” from Loudoun, Lazaro said. “You’re constrained by the resources of people and the number of installers. We want to ensure that people get a good product at a good price and that it’s done appropriately. . . . You don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver.”

Adams said organizers are looking at ways to offer the program in Prince William next year. She said that Northern Virginia homeowners can express their interest in the program by signing up online even if they live outside Loudoun.

“If we have enough critical mass where we can bundle a group of people together and issue [a request for proposals from solar contractors], we’re perfectly willing to do that,” she said.

Lazaro, a former mayor of Purcellville, said that his family was the first in Loudoun to sign a contract for their home through Solarize NOVA.

“If you’re going to talk about it and ask people to do it, you’d better do it yourself,” he said. Based on the tax credits and energy cost savings, he said, he thinks his family’s solar energy system will pay for itself in 10 years.

“It’s a good investment,” Adams said. “If you’re thinking about, ‘Where do I want to invest an extra 20 [thousand dollars],’ you can put it in the stock market, or you can put it in your house. You don’t get taxed twice on those dollars. You just get to keep them.”

For information or to sign up for an assessment, visit www.solarizenova.
org
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Barnes is a freelance writer.