Getting Started with Solar in Nelson County
Welcome to Nelson County’s solar resource webpage. Nelson County is seeking ways to encourage solar energy development in our community. This webpage represents a collection of solar information and resources for the community. Our community’s solar goals can be found in our Solar Statement. For more information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar professionals, read the Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power and visit the Department of Energy’s Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.
Nelson County is working to become a SolSmart designated community by implementing best practices to make it easier for residents and businesses to install and access solar energy.
Policies and Processes
- Accessory Solar:
Solar projects that are accessory to a primary use on a property are generally permitted by-right. You will need to follow the standard Building Permit Application process. Two sets of engineered plans will need to be included, along with the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
- Solar Farms:
Article 22A of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance details the application process for Solar Farms. Additional building permits will be required.
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 local solar companies in Virginia, saves money on energy costs as the price continues to drop from technological developments, and improves electric grid resilience during peak demand and other stresses to the system.
Solar Maps and Potential
Finding a Contractor and Going Solar
Find a solar contractor (or two) to assess your home for solar energy and provide a quote.
- Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
- Visit EnergySage to learn about solar energy and submit for solar quotes from a network of pre-screened, local solar installers
- Consumer Solar Checklist – a checklist for residential consumers considering solar energy from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights – ensure a positive consumer experience by addressing important issues from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Solar Customer Resource Portal – various resources from SEIA, the Solar Energy Industries Association.
- Solar Owner’s Manual – information for current solar homeowners to ensure they are getting the most out of their system from Solar United Neighbors.
- Active Solar Contractors in Nelson County:
Financing, Incentives, and Tax Exemptions
- Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics – learn about the federal tax credit, eligibility, and other common questions & answers from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing – learn about different financing options from CESA, the Clean Energy States Alliance.
Solar Rights and Procedures
The Commonwealth of Virginia has adopted an energy policy favorable to renewable energy development and the rights of homeowners to harness electricity from renewables.
This Energy Policy promotes multiple objectives including, “Augmenting the exercise of private property rights by landowners desiring to generate their own energy from renewable energy sources on their lands.”
In some areas, Homeowners Associations have enacted restrictions to prohibit solar development in those neighborhoods. Recent legislation on the state level has provided extra protection to homeowners in this regard.
This article summarizes those efforts that went into the new Virginia Law in 2020.
Job Training and Educational Opportunities
- Piedmont Virginia Community College offers a Solar Technician Workforce Training Program.
- Licensing Requirements for Solar Installers in Virginia.
- The Solar Foundation’s Solar Training Network (Career Connections, Education & Workforce Partnerships)
If you are interested in pursuing a career in solar energy, here are some links to regional and national educational courses, programs, and/or trainings offered from colleges, universities, technical institutions, and non-profits.
More Useful Solar Information
- FAQ for Utility Scale Solar
- Glossary of Solar Energy Terms
- Are you Solar Ready? from the American Planning Association
- Top Five Large-Scale Solar Myths from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
- Guide to Land Leases for Solar from the Solar Energy Industries Association
- Health and Safety Impacts of Solar Photovoltaics from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center
- Virginia Pollinator Smart Solar Site from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation