Solar co-op concept generates heat

By Larry Wohlers
Special to the Rappahannock News

A crowd of more than 60 county residents gathered at the Theater at Washington April 26 for a  Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection-hosted information session on residential solar electricity. On the agenda: the dramatic increase in Virginia of residential solar co-ops. These informal associations are using a bulk purchase approach to achieve both major savings and greatly simplify contracting and installation of residential solar panels.

Aaron Sutch, president of Virginia Sun, a nonprofit foundation that supplies communities with technical expertise for solar, gave the crowd a detailed presentation on how the co-op concept works and why it makes solar today an attractive investment for the individual homeowner. Sutch also explained how homeowners use a process called “net-metering” to connect their solar systems to the local utility grid. This allows them to bank energy credits with the utility when their solar panels are producing excess power. Those credits then are automatically drawn down when they have to draw electricity from the grid. Aaron noted that not only has the cost of solar installation dropped significantly recently, but there is a 30 percent federal tax credit for new installations done before the end of 2016.

Interest among the attendees was very high, and about 30 households expressed a desire to move forward on creating a solar co-op with Virginia Sun’s support. A date for a launching meeting is being discussed now.

Those interested in learning more should send an email to or visit Virginia Sun’s website ( to learn more about how other Virginia communities are investing in residential solar.

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