2018 Virginia Solar Congress

3rd Annual Virginia Solar Congress a great success!

More than 100 solar supporters from across the Commonwealth joined together to enjoy a beautifully sunny fall day on Sunday, October 28 for the 3rd Annual Virginia Solar Congress at George Mason University. The free event brought together longtime solar advocates, solar homeowners, and newcomers just finding out about solar in their communities for a full day of learning, sharing, and discussion about the present and future of solar power in Virginia.

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Solar United Neighbors of Virginia Program Director Aaron Sutch kicked things off with opening remarks, discussing the state of solar in Virginia and setting the table for the day to come. And what a day it was—jam packed with a program covering everything from the basics of solar energy technology; to more advanced technical subjects like the benefits of combining solar panels with battery storage; to a discussion of grassroots solar advocacy around Virignia; to a deep dive into expected solar policy fights coming in 2019.

The day’s first session included a panel discussion about the solar policy landscape in Virginia and a diverse array of experts offering their perspective on the best next steps for solar supporters looking to fight for solar rights. An all-star panel of the Sierra Club’s Ivy Main, Advanced Energy Economy’s Harry Godfrey, Southern Environmental Law Center’s Hannah Coman, Vote Solar’s Thad Culley, and the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority’s Cliona Robb each shared their perspectives on what solar policies are on the horizon for 2019, and where solar advocacy in Virginia might go in the future.

The first session also included a Solar 101 presentation about the basics of solar technology and financing, as well as an overview George Mason’s work in the energy sector and climate change featuring Colin Nackerman, Climate Program Specialist from GMU Center for Climate Change Communication; Jennifer Sklarew, Professor from Department of Environmental Science and Policy; and Paul Houser, Co-Director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy.

The day continued with a second presentation session featuring two concurrent panels. Aaron Sutch from Solar United Neighbors and Scott Sklar of the Stella Group offered a presentation about combining a solar system with battery storage for homes and businesses, answering questions about the basics on technology and financing for this emerging market. At the same time, a group of rockstar local activists shared their insights on how solar supporters can make change in their community. Erik Curren, the Solar Patriot himself, led a panel discussion featuring Karen Torrent from Torrent Consulting, Jeff Heie from Give Solar, and Doug Hendren of Renew Rocktown, both of whom are leading efforts to expand solar access in the Harrisonburg area.

Three more concurrent presentations deepened the interest of participants after lunch. In one room, Alleyn Harned of Virginia Clean Cities discussed why electric vehicles and solar are a perfect match, while Chris Somers of Arlington County discussed municipal solar initiatives to advance solar in Arlington. Finally, Repower REC’s Mike Murphy discussed organizing in his rural electric cooperative. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) member-owners like Mike have joined together to build a pro-member, pro-co-op, and pro-democracy campaign to bring transparency and member control back to their co-op.

Finally, the day ended with an open plenary where Virginia Solar Congress participants could synthesize all the information from the day while openly discussing what they learned and how they hope the solar community in Virginia will continue to advance.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this exciting event and thank you to our hosts at the George Mason University Center for Energy Science and Policy. The 3rd Annual Virginia Solar Congress was a great success—and we’re already looking forward to next year!

You can find presentations from the day by clicking on the hyperlinks in the agenda below.

Event Agenda:

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.   Doors Open, Registration, Breakfast (light breakfast and coffee will be provided)

10:00 a.m. – 10:35 a.m.   Welcome Remarks

  • Aaron Sutch, Solar United Neighbors of Virginia
  • Special remarks by: Richard Kauzlarich, George Mason Center for Energy Science and Policy

10:45 to 11:45   Presentations – Session 1:

  1. Solar 101 Information Session

Learn the basics of how solar works on a home or small business, the economics behind solar, and the incentives available to you. If you are new to solar or considering going solar, this is the session for you!

  1. Advancing Rooftop Solar Policy in VA: Roundtable Discussion

In this policy roundtable, we’ll discuss practical steps for advancing solar policy in Virginia. Industry experts will offer their perspectives on effective legislation and practical steps you can take to support fair solar policy in Virginia.

  • Facilitated by: Aaron Sutch, Solar United Neighbors
  • Ivy Main, Sierra Club (presentation)
  • Harry Godfrey, Advanced Energy Economy
  • Hannah Coman, Southern Environmental Law Center (Rates of Solar)
  • Thad Culley, Vote Solar
  • Cliona Robb, VA Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority (presentation)
  1. George Mason’s Work in the Energy Sector and Climate Change: Panel Discussion

A panel of George Mason staff and faculty will discuss Mason’s efforts on Energy and Climate Issues. From the perspectives of Communications, Policy, and Science.

  • Colin Nackerman, Climate Program Specialist, GMU Center for Climate Change Communication
  • Jennifer Sklarew, Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy
  • Paul Houser, Co-Director, Center for Energy Science and Policy

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.   Presentations – Session 2:

  1. Solar + Battery Storage for Homes and Businesses

Learn how advancing battery storage technologies can work with solar on your home or business. The presentation will cover the technology, costs and value proposition for solar and battery storage.

  1. Grassroots Organizing to Overcome Local Barriers to Solar: Panel Discussion

Learn how advocates are joining together to overcome barriers to solar on the local level.  A panel of experts will share their experiences and successful strategies for growing solar in their communities. From pushing back against homeowner’s associations and municipal limits to solar, to helping local non-profits take advantage of solar, this panel will demonstrate the power of grassroots organizing.

  • Facilitated by: Joy Loving
  • Karen Torrent, Torrent Consulting
  • Erik Curren, Secure Futures and the Solar Patriot
  • Jeff Heie, Give Solar
  • Doug Hendren, Renew Rocktown

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.   Lunch and informal networking (lunch will be provided)

2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.   Presentations – Session 3:

  1. Electric Vehicles and Solar

Learn why electric vehicles are the perfect match for solar. The presentation will focus on technology, costs, charging and other practical considerations so that you can ‘fuel your vehicle with solar’. The session will also cover information for business owners interested in installing an EV charger at their business.

  1. Organizing for Solar in Rural Electric Cooperatives

Rural electric cooperatives provide power for nearly 20% of all Virginians. Learn how grassroots organizing efforts are working to promote local energy resources and democratic, local governance for cooperative members.

  1. Municipal Solar Initiatives to Advance Solar (Arlington County)

Learn how Arlington County has become an innovator in advancing solar for its residents. From pioneering the first CPACE program in Virginia, to a series of successful bulk purchase programs, Arlington County will share resources and lessons to help other municipalities advance solar in their communities.

3:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.   Participatory Open Forum Discussion and Closing Remarks

This open forum discussion will feature a selection of the day’s presenters who will highlight key takeaways and provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss next steps for advancing solar in Virginia.

  • Facilitated by: Aaron Sutch, Solar United Neighbors

This event is FREE and open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend! Whether you are a solar homeowner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between – this event is for you!

The 2018 Virginia Solar Congress is being organized by Solar United Neighbors of Virginia, in partnership with the George Mason University Center for Energy Science and Policy.


Parking is free! Solar United Neighbors is excited to be covering parking for all attendees of the Virginia Solar Congress. When you arrive at George Mason University Fairfax Campus, park at the Rappahannock Parking Deck which is located at 4395 University Drive.

Interested in volunteering at the Virginia Solar Congress? We are looking for volunteer photographers and videographers to help document the presentations at the event. If you are interested, please email us at getinvolved@solarunitedneighbors.org

Past Virginia Solar Congresses

2017 Virginia Solar Congress

2016 Virginia Solar Congress