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Becoming a SolSmart Region

To help our localities and our citizens benefit from the growing solar industry, and to ensure equitable and safe development, PlanRVA is pursuing regional certification in the national SolSmart program. Learn More about the program here. 

Please check out our Letter of Commitment to the SolSmart Program. 



Our Solar Commitment

PlanRVA is committed to promoting the continued advancement of solar in our region and supporting the autonomy of our localities in making decisions about solar in their own communities. We are committed to the following: 

  • Promoting equitable access to the benefits of solar. 
  • Advancing data-driven, climate-smart decision-making that minimizes negative environmental impacts and improves resiliency. 
  • Providing resources to our localities that will help them adopt best practices and streamline their processes. 
  • Providing clear guidance and accurate information to citizens considering going solar. 

Benefits of Going Solar

Solar energy uses a renewable energy source – the sun – and provides many benefits for individuals and the region. It improves environmental quality by reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, supports local solar companies in Virginia, creates local jobs, saves money on energy costs, and improves electric grid resilience during peak demand and other stresses to the system.   


For information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar professionals, read the Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power and visit the Department of Energy’s Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar. 

Permitting & Zoning

  • Rooftop and ground-mounted solar collection facilities are permitted by right in Residential, Agricultural, Commercial, Mixed-Use, Industrial, or Institutional zones, provided that the facility serves the electrical or thermal needs of the property on which it is located (see Code of Virginia §15.2-2288.7. Local regulation of solar facilities). In plain language, this means that you can install solar panels on your home, business, or farm that serves the purposes of your property, but you cannot run an entire solar farm without additional permitting. Large scale solar facilities are subject to different regulations, which we will explore below.  
  • By-right solar facilities are still subject to local height and setback requirements; historic, architectural, or corridor protection district restrictions; and other applicable zoning regulations. 
  • HOAs cannot prohibit homeowners from installing solar unless the HOA’s recorded declaration (founding document) explicitly prohibits solar installations. They may establish “reasonable restrictions,” which are defined by Virginia Code §55.1-1820.1. Installation of solar energy collection devices. 
House with Solar - Permitting

Mapping Tools

To better understand how large-scale solar development may impact the region, PlanRVA developed the Solar Suitability Tool to identify lands that are more or less suitable for this type of solar development.  The tool is intended for locality planning staff, private developers, and landowners and may compliment existing site analyses.  Learn more about these suitability characteristics in the mapping tool.  For explanations of the underlying data used in the suitability analyses, refer to this introductory guide.

Other Tools

Resources for Individuals

Finding a Contractor and Going Solar

Find a solar contractor(s) to assess your home or business for solar energy and provide a quote. 

  • Viridiant can provide home energy audits and solar assessments and connect occupants with reliable installers.  
  • Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
  • Visit EnergySage to learn about solar energy and submit for solar quotes from a network of pre-screened, local solar installers.
  • Solar Customer Resource Portal – various resources from SEIA, the Solar Energy Industries Association. 
    • Consumer Guide to Solar Power 
    • HOA Solar Action Guide 
    • Guía para el usuario residencial de energía solar
    • Residential Disclosure Forms
    • Residential Consumer Guide to Community Solar (for renters) 
    • Guide to Land Leases for Solar 
    • Complaint Resolution Process 
  • Solar Owner’s Manual – information for current solar homeowners to ensure they are getting the most out of their system from Solar United Neighbors.
  • Solar Checklist – The Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s checklist of key information to know before contracting for a solar system. 

Consumer Protections and Solar Rights

Woman with Panels - Resources for Individuals

Financing, Incentives, and Tax Exemptions

Typically, solar installations are paid for through loans, upfront payments, or a power purchase agreement (PPA). Federal and State incentives are available to help make solar an affordable option. 

Solar with Money - Financing

Resources for Localities and Businesses

Best Practices 

Small-Scale Rooftop and Ground-Mounted Systems 

Solar on Buildings - Businesses


      • Some local ordinances require large-scale solar projects to participate in this voluntary program.  
      • Includes guidance, a native plant guide, and an invasive species guide. 

Solar Suitability Tool


Incentives & Tax Credits 

Job Training and Career Help

If you are interested in pursuing a career in solar energy, here are some links to regional and national educational courses, programs, and/or trainings offered from colleges, universities, technical institutions, and non-profits. 


Solar Workers- Job Training
  • Solar Ready Vets – Connecting transitional service members and veterans with career opportunities in the solar industry.
  • Bridging the Gap – FREE solar installation training offered through a partnership between Viridiant, Richmond Office of Community Wealth Building, and Bridging the Gap in Virginia. Bridging the Gap is a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring Black and Brown communities are not left behind in the clean energy transition. 
  • GRID Alternatives – Offering workforce development opportunities for all, with special programs to expand opportunities for Women in Solar and college students. 




This project, Task # 48 was funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program led by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality through Grant FY20 # NA20NOS4190207 of the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic, and Atmospheric Administration, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended.  The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Department of Commerce, NOAA, or any of its subagencies.