Local legislation has helped Washington, D.C. become the ultimate hotspot for the solar industry. With an ambitious target requiring 100% renewable electricity by 2032, and with plans to power up to 100,000 D.C. households with solar energy, the race is on to get solar panels on every possible rooftop.
Though significant progress has been made, the industry needs to pump out more solar agreements in every corner of the District. For guidance on how this can be done, SaveSolar has provided a quick look at how D.C.'s eight wards are faring in the race for Solar for All.
Ward 5 – the golden child
A large area in D.C.'s northeast with a unique blend of industrial land, open space and residential neighborhoods, Ward 5 has all the star qualities needed for a solar boom. Boasting the largest share of the District’s solar potential (18.7%) and more than 10 MWs of existing solar capacity, Ward 5 also leads the District in parking lot solar potential and is tied with Ward 2 for the most rooftop solar potential, according to a May 2020 report from D.C.'s Office of the People’s Council.
Already hosting many large-capacity solar installations and with plenty of room for more of all sizes, you can safely bet that Ward 5 will remain the hub of D.C.'s solar activity.
Wards 7 and 8 — the runners up
Located along the Anacostia River in the east and the south, Wards 7 and 8 have very high potential for solar output, partly due to the large proportion of District-owned land in these wards and partly due to the potential for large (often community solar) installations.
In fact, combined, these two wards contain nearly half of the District’s community solar potential; however, that estimate does not include the potential for community solar built on privately-owned rooftops and parking lots – something that analysts thought was impossible, but something SaveSolar has successfully done with a 1.28 MW system on Fort Chaplin Park Apartments in Ward 7.
In total, Wards 7 and 8 make up for about one-third of D.C.'s current solar energy (which stood at 89 MWs as of December 2019). However, this 33% share of solar output in D.C. will likely shrink to 25% as solar projects pick up in other wards over the coming years.
Still, Wards 7 and 8 are likely to be among the first in D.C. to reach their full solar potential, due to the presence of many large-capacity solar installations, single-family homes, private parking lots and the amount of District-owned land.
Wards 4 & 6 — the competitors
Though Wards 4 & 6 have the most solar installations (about 700 in each), together, they make up just about one-fourth of D.C.'s planned solar potential (11% in Ward 4 and 14% in Ward 6). The reason for this is that most of the solar projects in these wards are low-capacity PV installations on homes and small businesses.
Key challenges for developing solar in Ward 6, which lies in the heart of the city, are the difficulties around permitting in Downtown and the strict housing requirements placed on homes in the historic Capitol Hill district.
However, Wards 4 and 6 have significant solar potential and the number of solar projects in these busy wards is likely to remain steady over the years.
Wards 1, 2 & 3 — a slow start
As for Wards 1, 2 and 3, much remains to be done. Though Ward 1 has the smallest share of D.C.'s solar potential (6.4%), it has gotten off the ground a bit quicker than some, with more than 400 low-capacity solar installations (totaling roughly 4 MWs).
In comparison, Wards 2 and 3 are lagging far behind their technical solar potential (a combined total of 25%). One likely reason for the slow start in Ward 3, which contains many affluent neighborhoods, is a lack of awareness or interest in solar. This failure by the industry needs to be overcome in order to meet the District’s clean energy targets.
Ward 2 shares a similar challenge as Ward 6 – permitting challenges in Federal Triangle and the central business district, as well as a large number of historic districts which, until recently, banned the installation of solar on front-facing roofs.
SaveSolar is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that specializes in developing community solar assets. We work with building owners to finance and build solar assets, to compensate owners with long-term revenue and to generate solar energy back into the utility. This energy is then provided at a discount to residential, low-income and community subscribers. Our mission is to help our district reach its renewable energy goals and to lower the cost of electricity.
The SaveSolar executive leadership team has over 60 years of combined experience in renewable energy markets in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. We have diversified experience across construction, finance, project management, technology and sustainability. Our expertise spans numerous countries that have previously established renewable energy programs.
If you would like to contact SaveSolar to discuss a project, please visit https://www.savesolar.us/rooftop-solar-lease/ to book an appointment, or call us at (202) 846-6928 to speak to one of our Community Project Specialists.