Using data from DC Public Service Commission (DC PSC), Sol Systems mapped each solar array registered to produce SRECs in DC. The results may surprise you.
At first glance, the solar map of DC is packed with systems – a sign of a healthy and thriving solar industry in the District. Upon further study, however, it becomes clear that the systems are highly uneven in their distribution. More specifically, there are two apparent hotspots – one in the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the east of the National Mall, and one directly north of downtown D.C. in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood – while the sparest solar concentrations are found in Southeast DC. While socioeconomic divisions certainly account for a good deal of the differences in the number of systems in each ward, closer examination shows that strong incentives coupled with local advocacy and organizing can make the difference between a few houses with solar and a true solar neighborhood.
Wards 1 and 6 feature the most intense concentrations of solar, areas that happen to correspond with the Mount Pleasant Solar Cooperative and the Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative. Wards 2, 3, and 4 feature medium concentrations of solar arrays and correspond to mostly residential development. Wards 5, 7 and 8 have both the lowest number of systems within their bounds and the highest poverty rates in the district.
Ward 1’s solar distribution may look modest, but it has one of the highest concentrations in the district at 93 systems. The majority of the systems are grouped together in the northwest corner of the district, which corresponds to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. This spike in systems can be attributed to the work of the Mount Pleasant Solar Cooperative, founded in 2006 as the first solar co-op in DC. By sharing information and grouping together for bulk purchasing, such an organization removes the barriers to entry that many homeowners face in their mission to install solar.
DC’s historic city center in Ward 2 is relatively barren of solar. With only four systems near the National Mall, Ward 2 features only a moderate concentration of solar arrays in the north where development is slightly more residential. In downtown DC, the heart of the capital, solar has proven to be relatively incompatible with older buildings and offices. Historical restrictions and competing uses for rooftop space could both be to blame.
Ward 3 by contrast has the third-most systems in the District, with a total of 84. Ward 3 also features the lowest poverty rate in the District, showing again the necessity of having access to the upfront capital that a solar installation requires. The systems are spread easily throughout this mostly-residential Ward, indicating that homeowners in DC may find it easier to install solar on their properties compared to businesses or other organizations.
With 44 systems, Ward 4 may not be a leader in the District, but it still boasts a respectable amount of solar. With a great deal of residential development and good economic indicators, Ward 4 is a prime candidate for additional solar capacity in the District.
Ward 5 only has 16 systems, but with both Catholic and Gallaudet University contained within its borders it could potentially house a substantial amount of non-residential solar. (Catholic University already has a solar array installed.) While financing projects might be an issue, its poverty rate is similar to that of Ward 6, which is a close second for the most systems in the district.
Ward 6 is a great success story for solar in DC. The target of the Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative, the area has seen significant achievements with rooftop solar just steps from the National Mall. The organization boasts over 200kW of installed capacity so far with over 60 households participating. It is an excellent example of the power of community organization and outreach in overcoming the knowledge barriers that prevent many homeowners from taking steps towards solar.
Wards 7 and 8 feature both the fewest systems in the District, and the highest poverty rates. This undeniable relationship between poverty rates and solar adoption indicates the need for programs that tackle high upfront costs and the complexity surrounding solar installations through education and outreach. DC’s pending Community Solar Bill would allow virtual net metering, giving DC residents whose homes are not suitable for solar or who do not own a home the ability to own solar. It is a good first step towards tackling the complex financials of solar, but only one small piece of a broader solution.
And for those who believe money is the only obstacle to owning solar, it bears mentioning that the wealthiest wards in the city are not those with the most solar. In fact, the highest concentrations of solar in the District are found in Wards 1 and 6, which fall right in the middle in terms of economic indicators. However, their strong outreach programs have succeeded in making the most out of existing programs in order to bring solar to those who may never have considered installing a solar array.
Today, over a dozen solar organizations have tackled solar in various neighborhoods in DC. Though they have met with varying levels of success, the motivation and the goal is the same: to bring clean, affordable energy to DC homeowners and businesses that would not otherwise complete the solar installation process. Spurring on investments in solar energy within DC involves more than overcoming economic hurdles – though these are equally important. Reaching out to potential solar investors and helping residents understand the solar process is just as crucial to expanding solar energy in the District. While current progress is admirable, when it comes to DC solar, the sun’s the limit for future capacity growth.
About Sol Systems
Sol Systems is a solar finance firm and a leader in financial innovation in the renewable energy industry. Since its inception in 2008, Sol Systems has partnered with 350 installers and developersto bring over 3,000 solar projects from conception to completion by offering innovative financing solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale projects.
Sol Systems’ financing programs catalyze investments for a broad set of solar projects by simplifying their origination, diligence, and financing processes. Developers seeking financing for projects can access over $2.5 billion in capital through the Sol Systems investor network.
In addition to providing financing, Sol Systems also offers project due diligence, deal structuring, and asset management services – all designed to reduce overhead and transaction costs and quicken project development timelines.
For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.
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