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April 2, 2018

Sun cuts her electricity costs at home and office

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Lynn Wiley had 60 solar panels installed on her office and a slightly larger system at her nearby home.
The long-term benefit far outweighs the immediate expense.
— Lynn Wiley
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Sixty black panels absorb sunlight on the office roof in The Plains, saving the building owner about 65 percent on monthly electric bills.

Looking to lower her Dominion Energy costs, associate real estate broker Lynn Wiley two years ago decided to install solar panels on her office building on Main Street and at her home near Wakefield School.

“I could see the Dominion bill creeping, and we live in an old house that’s drafty,” Ms. Wiley said. “This is a very convoluted theory, but in order to make our home more efficient, we would need to replace almost all the windows. I don’t want to do that because the finish on the windows on the inside is an architectural feature. If we took the windows out we would lose that.”

For 25 years, she and her husband Jim have owned the two-story commercial building on Main Street, which houses her Washington Fine Properties real estate office, Hunt Country Yarns and an upstairs apartment.

Ms. Wiley in 2016 chose to buy solar panels through the Piedmont Environmental Council’s “Solarize Piedmont” program, which helps property owners get lower prices with a competitive bidding process.

She paid about $66,000 to install solar panels on the office building and at her home through the Leesburg-based Solar Solutions For All.

But, “the long-term benefit far outweighs the immediate expense,” Ms. Wiley said.

A 30-percent federal income tax credit on the installation costs also made solar an attractive option.

Since installing 72 panels on her barn at home and 60 on the office building, Ms. Wiley has enjoyed a “huge reduction in the electric bill.”

Before solar, her 2,800-square-foot Main Street building had a monthly electric bill of about $275. It has since gone down to $65 to $100 a month.

Even after insulating and improving the energy efficiency of their early 20th-century home, the Wileys often had a $450 electric bill.

Today, “the bill is a good 60 percent less than it was prior to having solar panels,” Ms. Wiley said.

“I felt like God has given us sunshine; therefore, I can supplement the utility cost with God’s work. Instead of replacing the windows, I would spend the money on the solar panels,” she said.

Both of her systems use “net metering.” When sun provides more electricity than a home or office uses, the excess goes back onto the grid and the owner gets a credit for each kilowatt-hour.

In about 10 years, Ms. Wiley’s solar systems installation will pay for themselves with monthly savings.

“Therefore, I’m looking at my retirement without having a large utility bill every month,” Ms. Wiley said.

The number of solar installations has grown in Northern Virginia over the last several years because of lower prices and better technology, according to Torsten Seling, owner and partner at Solar Solutions for All.

“The solar panels have become more powerful over the years,” Mr. Selign said. “They simply generate more” electricity.

Solar installations have increased about 25 percent annually since the company’s founding in 2014.

“I think that Virginians are finally waking up to the idea that it makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Seling said.

However, in the near future, he believes the prices of solar installations will go up because of new tariffs on panels, aluminum and steel.

At an additional cost, Ms. Wiley also installed battery backups at her home instead of a fuel-powered generator. The batteries provide electricity for about four days when the power goes out.

“When everyone else is fueling their energy with oil or propane, we are fueling with sun,” she said.

As a Realtor, Ms. Wiley believes solar panels add value to a property.

“They are not anywhere near as unattractive as they used to be,” she said. “You don’t even notice them. I used to think solar panels were so ugly, but now it’s kind of like telephone polls. You expect to see them, but you don’t notice them.

“I feel like I’m doing something for the environment,” Ms. Wiley said.
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