SolarCity expanding its Southeast presence with entry into Virginia

SolarCity, the top installer of residential rooftop solar systems in the U.S., is setting its sights on a third state in the Southeast.

After recently entering the South Carolina and Florida markets, SolarCity is dedicating a sales team to developing business in urban areas, mostly in northern Virginia, according to a company spokesman who declined to be named, citing company policy.

Virginia has long been viewed by solar advocates as a backwater for residential solar due in part to a lack of state incentives and the outsized influence of the state’s electric utilities. With SolarCity active in Virginia and its deputy director of policy and electricity markets – Chris Ercoli – this year heading the regional solar trade association that includes Virginia, advocates gain a valuable ally locally and statewide.

Dana Sleeper, executive director of the regional trade association, said, “SolarCity entering the Virginia market is good news for everyone interested in expanding clean energy choices for Virginians.”

The move comes as Tesla, which acquired SolarCity in November, also has a growing stake in the state. In December, Tesla won a ruling from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to open its second retail store in the state in Richmond, the state capital. The company’s other store is in next to the Washington D.C. region’s largest shopping center, Tysons Corner, in Vienna.

The move also comes as the solar industry and is many advocates in Virginia are making limited progress loosening Dominion Virginia Power’s firm grip on solar policy during this year’s General Assembly. This year’s session formally concludes February 25.

The SolarCity spokesman said the company will “find ways of working together” with utilities.

SolarCity is set to make outright sales to homeowners with or without a 10-year company loan it intends to offer, but is stopping short of offering a lease option or power purchase agreements (PPAs). Under a PPA, SolarCity would own the system on a customer’s roof and sell him/her the electricity.

Since 2015, SolarCity has partnered with Shea Homes to offer those looking to move into “active adult”, 55-and-older, zero-energy residences at their development on Lake Frederick in northwest Virginia. SolarCity entered the Florida market in a similar fashion with homebuilder Del Webb in the Orlando and Tampa metro areas.

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