Getting Started With Solar
Welcome to the James City County solar resource webpage. James City County is seeking ways to enhance the amount of solar energy installed in our community and this webpage represents a collection of solar resources and information for our community. If you’re thinking about going solar, here are two fantastic resources that give you information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar a professional:
- Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power (PDF) by the Solar Energy Industries Association
- Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar published by the U.S. Department of Energy
Policies & Processes
- Solar Statement (PDF)
- Guidelines for Installing Solar Energy Systems (PDF)
- State of Virginia Solar Energy Policy (PDF)
In most cases, solar panels, whether ground or roof mounted, that service an existing building or structure are generally permitted as an accessory use in James City County. However to be considered an accessory use, the amount of solar energy produced by such panels should be limited to the amount of energy needed to service an existing building or structure Proposals that exceed the amount to service an existing building or structure must be reviewed by the Zoning Division to determine if other approvals are required.
Installation of roof or ground mounted solar panels for non-residential buildings must receive site plan approval and comply with all requirements set forth in that zoning district such as building setbacks and height limitation. It is highly recommended to submit a conceptual plan to the Planning Division prior to developing an engineered site plan. This will allow staff to review the site and identify any possible conditions that may conflict with the proposal.
Installation of roof or ground mounted solar panels for residential buildings will be reviewed during the building permit process. The proposed panels must comply with all applicable building setbacks and height limitation requirements for the zoning district in which the structure is located. Please be aware that many subdivisions have additional design guidelines that may regulate the proposal panels. It is recommended that homeowners contact zoning staff to review and identify any possible conditions that may conflict with the proposal.
If you live in a HOA, you will also want to consult your Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions documents to see if there are any special requirements for siting solar. Please note–HOAs or Neighborhood Associations in Virginia cannot restrict solar through their bylaws. Here are some additional resources on Virginia law regarding HOAs and solar:
- Code of Virginia: Solar Panels; community association’s authority to prohibit
- Guidance on HOAs and Solar Access in Virginia provided by Solar United Neighbors VA
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Encouraging Solar Development through Community Association Policies and Processes published by the Solar Foundation (not Virginia specific, but very useful)
Solar energy uses a renewable energy source–the sun–and provides many benefits for individuals and the community. It improves environmental quality by reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, supports nearly 4,000 jobs and over 250 companies in Virginia, saves money on energy costs as the price continues to drop form increasing demand and technological developments, and improves electric grid resilience during peak demand and other stresses to the system. Check out more great information about the economy and employment impacts of solar in Virginia.
Solar Maps & Potential
Finding a Contractor and Going Solar
Find a solar contractor to assess your home for solar energy and provide a bid. Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
- Choosing a Solar Installer: An informative short video from the GW Solar Institute explaining to the questions to ask and research to conduct prior to going solar.
- Consumer Solar Checklist: A checklist for residential consumers considering solar energy from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).
- Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights: Ensuring a positive consumer experience by addressing important issues from IREC.
- Solar Customer Resource Portal: Provides tools that consumers can use to make an informed decision about whether and how to go solar.
Financing, Incentives & Tax Incentives
Typically solar installations are paid are made more affordable through Federal and State tax incentives and rebates. Unfortunately, other than allowing for net metering, Virginia does not offer much in the way of solar incentives. Important note: the 30% Federal Tax Credit for residential solar is still in full effect through 2019, and will be phased out starting in 2020.
- A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing: Learn about different financing options from CESA, the Clean Energy States Alliance.
- Rooftop Solar Financing 101: An informative short video from the GW Solar Institute explaining different solar financing options.