Bright idea? Co-op helps home and business owners determine whether solar energy is a good fit

YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Friday was a sunny day in Hampton Roads, just like three out of every five days throughout the year. People who are converting to solar are leveraging that fact to save money and help the environment.

The science of solar appeals to homeowner Gwyn Williams, a scientist himself. He powers his 1850 farmhouse in Yorktown with 21st century technology.

“There’s $100 worth of energy that lands on that roof every month from the sun, so the question is, can you harvest it?” Williams said.

For him, the answer to that question was the co-op known as Solar United Neighbors. That’s where he learned about solar, finding an installer, and the new meaning for the term “purchasing power.”

“They can gather about 60 customers at once, so you get volume discounts on panels,” Williams said.

Williams used to pay $5,000 a year for heating oil — now it’s only about $1,200 a year — after catching a lot of rays on his roof — to power his TV, kitchen appliances and the rest of his electric needs.

Williams says his system cost about $9,100 after a tax credit, and with his savings, it will have paid for itself in about eight more years.

When it comes to golf courses going solar in Virginia, Kiskiack in Williamsburg was at the top of the leaderboard.

“In 2018 when we installed these panels, we were the first golf course in Virginia to capture solar energy,” said Kiskiack’s Vince Zangardi.

He says having the co-op as a partner helped show that solar could be a stroke of genius when it comes to the bottom line.

“It’s a smart financial decision for businesses,” said Zangardi. “This has a [return on investment] of about seven years, and after that, we’ll be basically generating free energy.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Beach homeowner Dave Belote says he has cut his power bill with Dominion Energy by two thirds — and installation lasted just two days.

“I let them into the attic and we have had zero leaks, zero problems. Rooftop solar is pretty well understood now,” Belote said.

Solar United Neighbors will look into financing programs for low and middle income homeowners to help with installation costs. The co-op will have a free informational webinar coming up October 28.


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