At the DCSEU, we are remotely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts on the local industries we work with. That includes the solar industry as we work to implement DOEE’s Solar for All program.
On March 30, Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered DC residents to “stay home [...] to flatten the curve and protect yourself, your family, and our entire community from COVID-19,” however, the Mayor’s Order specifically allows certain activities to continue, including those deemed “essential business.”
‘Essential business’ in DC specifically includes construction of ‘essential infrastructure’ including electric and utility infrastructure such as solar projects. Together, the District’s guidance allows the development and construction of solar projects to carry on – with some added safety precautions.
To quote the Mayor’s Order, “Essential Infrastructure, including public works, such as […] utilities” can continue. With local government agencies like DCRA still running, at this time solar companies can still submit and receive permits through DCRA’s on-line project dox system, and schedule inspections for projects.
Installation work can be completed almost entirely outdoors, so with a few extra precautions to limit contact with customers, solar installations can be done safely even in the age of coronavirus. Businesses have come up with creative strategies to lower their health risks, including remote intake of customers, touch-free contract signatures, and even installing temporary bathroom facilities onsite to use instead of entering customers’ homes.
Continuing to install solar projects across the District provides numerous tangible benefits for homeowners and commercial customers alike. In a tighter economy, customers who install solar systems now will benefit from reduced energy bills—both at this critical moment in time, and for many years to come. Solar can help lower homeowners’ monthly home costs and set them up with savings each month that amount to a financial safety net during the pandemic and other events. Similarly, local businesses and commercial buildings can also benefit from solar installations during these uncertain times. Building owners and business owners can gain extra income from valuable incentives such as local Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SRECs), lowered utility bills from offsetting conventional power with solar, or hosting a community solar system whereby the output benefits low-income residents across DC. Solar can be a powerful tool in boosting the stability of local businesses, enhancing community resiliency, and buffering families and businesses from volatility in the energy market.
As we navigate this situation together, our first priority is the safety and well-being of our staff, contractors, and customers. The solar industry, by continuing safe practices and development activities, has the potential to maintain some stability during the COVID-19 crisis, and empower individual workers, their families, and the local economy in the process.
For more information on best practices and safety precautions during the COVID 19 crisis, the DCSEU recommends the following resources:
- Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)’s best practices for solar industry workers on managing this outbreak;
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19;
- World Health Organization's guidance for employees and workers; and
- S. Dept. of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines on preparing workplaces for COVID-19.
The DCSEU strongly encourages all participants engaged in the solar industry during the pandemic to closely follow SEIA’s guidance on taking extra precautions to keep themselves and others safe. The DCSEU will continue to provide relevant updates on the coronavirus and how it impacts the solar industry, including the 2020 Solar for All program.