Could Virginia Become the New Sunshine State? 

click to enlarge James Huff of Abakus Solar says everybody wins if more people use the sun's energy. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • James Huff of Abakus Solar says everybody wins if more people use the sun's energy.

A major German solar power company has just opened its first American office in Richmond. Not because we're so forward-thinking; because our neighbors are.

Abakus Solar USA is a solar equipment supplier, broker and adviser for local contractors. After compiling a 400-page market study, its chief executive, James Huff, picked Richmond for the company's American launch, mainly because it's within a six-hour drive of several major cities and because of its proximity to the port of Norfolk.

Last week, the company opened the doors of its bright showroom on the Boulevard, in the former Velocity Motorcycles building. Fighting fish flutter in water-filled vases while large solar panels on wheeled stands soak up the rays. It all feels so very eco (except for the gasoline vapors that drift in from the former garage). But 31-year-old Huff is the first to tell you he's not a green crusader. He's a businessman.

Virginia itself is "a virgin market" for solar, Huff says. Why? Virginia offers no tax credits or significant financial incentives for solar energy, even though it imports more power per capita than any other state.

Businesses and homeowners with solar panels can sell their unused electricity on the open market, but Virginia's power companies aren't required to buy it. Today, selling solar energy on the open market in Virginia nets a "paltry" $75 per credit — equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity — explains Chad Laibly of Continuum Energy Solutions in Alexandria. In New Jersey, where power companies are required to derive a certain percent of their energy from renewable sources, one credit has recently been selling for about $600. "It's a real struggle in Virginia," Laibly says.

If "Virginia were to set a price for renewable energy, this would be the renewable energy capital of the East Coast," Huff says. Banks and businesses would be willing to invest in solar energy, he explains, because they could then count on a certain return.

Abakus intends to lower the cost of solar locally by making panels and specialized equipment readily available to contractors. The more panels are installed, the cheaper solar energy will get, Huff says: "Prices go down, more people buy it, everybody's happy."


Latest in News and Features


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Cars, Horses and Children

    Cars, Horses and Children

    A Valentine exhibition uses the work of amateur photographer Edith Shelton to shine a light on Richmond neighborhoods of the ’50s through the ’70s.
    • Jan 19, 2021
  • Cajun Adventures

    Cajun Adventures

    Former Richmonder Ann Savoy publishes her second major work about Cajun, Creole and zydeco music.
    • Jan 12, 2021
  • Rehabbing Big Brown

    Rehabbing Big Brown

    Our architecture critic looks at why to rehab the existing Richmond Coliseum and make it a centerpiece for redevelopment.
    • Jan 12, 2021
  • From Stage to Screen

    From Stage to Screen

    Cadence Theatre Company’s Sitelines BLM Project commissions film scripts from five local minority voices.
    • Jan 5, 2021
  • More »

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation