5 Reasons to Go Solar in Washington, DC

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I have spent my career working to proliferate commercial and industrial solar projects and businesses across the country. The solar industry is unique–individual states, and even cities within a state, have drastically different economics for the hosts and owners of the solar facility. In one state, going solar can be a financial “no-brainer,” and in the state right next to it, solar might not even be allowed. I joined New Columbia Solar (NCS) because I wanted to work for the market leader in a state where solar was the biggest “no-brainer.”

Washington, DC is uniquely ahead of the curve when it comes to the adoption of solar. With the Clean Energy Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018, DC enacted the strongest solar incentive of a city or state in the United States. Under the leadership of Mayor Bowser, and the City Council, DC is on track to be 100% renewable by 2032–10% of which will be sourced from solar energy generated from within the District by 2041. With this legislation, DC has empowered the private sector to lead its climate charge and is systematically removing red tape along the way.

Take it from an opportunist: If you own a building in DC, going solar is not just a “green, feel-good addition” to your building – it’s a financial tool that can reshape your bottom line. Depending on your goals, you can leverage the financial benefits from solar to dramatically reduce your operating costs, add a low-risk revenue stream, or even replace your roof at no cost to you.

For perspective, the incentive DC offers for solar-generated electricity is equivalent to approximately 3-4 times the rate you see on your utility bill. Thus, when combined with federal tax credits, solar developers like NCS can pay for all the upfront and ongoing costs of building and maintaining the solar facility while providing heavily discounted electricity, a fixed lease rate, or even a lump sum, cash payment. Many NCS clients, and increasingly more DC real estate owners, consider solar as a part of their investment strategy and their efforts to maximize the enterprise value of their property.

Economic incentives aside, a great solar partner will understand that the process of going solar can never take priority over the priorities for your business and building. NCS strives to make going solar as easy as possible for you, the building owner. We work to ensure that solar is not a distraction from your day-to-day priorities. Solar has to be a time- and financial value-add to your organization.

Here are 5 reasons why you should go solar in DC:

1. Financial stability and reduced risk

Property owners are adopting solar to increase long-term financial stability. More broadly, corporations are increasingly turning to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategies to demonstrate methodologies that de-risk the business and attract additional investors. With the rising cost of electricity, global supply chain uncertainties, and rising trend of energy efficiency regulations and requirements, onsite, clean energy production offers confidence to corporate forecasts and perceptions. Property owners can receive a low-risk income stream from solar through one of the following financial structures:

  • Monthly lease payments for installing solar panels on their rooftops, which treats the solar installation like a rooftop tenant;
  • Upfront payment for roof repair or replacements, or other capital improvements; or
  • Discounted electricity.

2. Compliance with Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) 

The District, along with several states, utilizes BEPS to increase building efficiencies over time to meet decarbonization goals. Solar energy can help property owners to meet BEPS, and similar regulatory requirements, by providing onsite energy production, and in some cases, providing property owners with the upfront capital that can finance HVAC upgrades, roof replacements, and other efficiency investments for the property.

3. Roof preservation and shading

Going solar can not only help finance a new roof structure or parking lot, but will also extend the lifespan of rooftops and parking lots by providing protection against prolonged sun exposure and natural elements, such as rain, debris, and snow. Parking canopy structures in particular can be an additional amenity through shading or protection from the elements to vehicles particularly in climates like DC with high precipitation and hot summer months.

4. New marketing opportunities

Our clients have taken advantage of new marketing opportunities presented by onsite solar facilities. Below are some examples:

  • Property managers with affordable housing units in the District automatically enroll income-qualifying tenants into the District’s Solar for All program, which allows them to offer prospective tenants 50% savings to their energy bills. This can reduce utility costs to tenants and therefore increase the tenant’s ability to pay monthly rent.
  • Business leaders showcase their solar facilities as a visual demonstration of their commitment to sustainability. In local and national interviews, including segments on NBC4, Channel 7 news, and CBS: This Morning Saturday, our clients have been able to ceremoniously cut ribbons and speak to media personnel about the benefits of their solar facilities.
  • New Columbia Solar provides marketing as a service to its customers. This includes providing customers with professional photographs and drone footage, marketing collateral, social media toolkits, posters for lobby areas, and has applied for awards on behalf of our clients to champion their solar facilities to their customer base.

5. Local job creation, economic support, and community benefits

Solar developers, and clean other energy companies, provide a wide range of high quality jobs for the local community. New Columbia Solar, for example, has created close to 100 local jobs that function across the company’s verticals, which include construction, finance, marketing and sales, operations and maintenance, asset management, and corporate operations.

In addition to bringing another source of revenue to local businesses, solar energy brings community benefits to the District through its unique Solar for All (SFA) program, which is Mayor Bowser’s initiative to provide 100,000 low-to-moderate income families with the benefits of locally generated clean energy. Through deploying community renewable energy facilities (CREFs), New Columbia Solar helps to grow the program and its benefits across Washington, DC.

Finally, New Columbia Solar partners with its nonprofit clients by donating to their causes, participating in charitable events, and teaching DC youth about solar energy. Examples include teaching Roots PCS students and DC SCORES campers about the solar facilities we installed on the school and at Audi Field; attending client fundraisers, including KIPProm and Share the Love Gala; and bringing clients to local charity events, such as Sunday Supper.

If you’re interested in learning more, fill out this contact us form. One of our team members would be happy to answer questions that are more specific to your interests and property needs.

Shane Lebow

VP of Business Development and Strategy

Shane joined NCS in 2019 and has supported and led NCS’s financing, development and sales efforts. Shane now oversees NCS’s business development, marketing, and strategic growth activities. Shane brings eight years of experience in clean energy and infrastructure investing. Shane began his career in the DG Project Finance group at SunEdison structuring tax equity financing, and later co-founded a private equity firm that deployed over $120M in distributed generation solar assets in Massachusetts.

About New Columbia Solar

New Columbia Solar develops, finances, owns, and operates rooftop, canopy, and ground-mounted solar projects located on commercial, industrial, multi-family, non-profit, and faith-based properties across the District of Columbia and Maryland. Founded in 2016, the company has grown to be the largest and most comprehensive solar energy company in the District of Columbia with a mission to power every home and business in the District of Columbia with solar energy. They pride themselves on using solar energy to provide increased cash flow and financial flexibility to more than 100 schools, nonprofits and residential building owners across the District. For more information visit www.newcolumbiasolar.com.

Email: [email protected]

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