How Community Solar Works 101

Energy Savings


Community solar is a new approach to solar energy, and it is simple in concept and practice. If you are giving thought to going solar, community solar offers a number of distinct advantages that make it a good choice over private solar options. Follow below for an introduction to how community solar works.

How a Solar Farm Works

As an overview, when an owner of unused acreage decides to develop a community-solar farm (or smaller garden), they sell or lease the land to the third-party solar operator. The third-party operator then converts the unused land to solar farmland. The idea of community solar is the same as for private solar.


According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a community-solar farm’s business model will depend on the state in which a community-solar site is located. At the moment, approximately one third of US states have created legislation for the community-solar market. These laws govern how a third-party community-solar entity builds its sites and bills customers.


How Community Solar Works

Typically, a property owner who decides to purchase solar panels with have them installed on the property, oftentimes on the roof. These solar panels serve the energy needs of just that property. But many property owners find that they cannot have solar panels installed on their properties due to natural features (for example, the shade of tree blocks the sunlight), due to the orientation of the house (which can also limit how much sunlight the panels receive), or other limitations (for instance, the material the roof is made of won’t allow for rooftop installation). Installing a private solar-panel system can also be cost prohibitive.


By contrast, community solar is an off-site solar installation that serves the energy needs of many subscribers to that community-solar site. Both property owners and renter are able to subscribe to the solar production of the common site. What each subscriber pays differs by how much energy their respective homes use on a monthly basis. When the community-solar site produces power, it gets distributed to subscribers.


How Billing Works for Community Solar

When it comes to subscribing to community solar, billing is a simple question to explain. When you make the move to community solar, you pay the solar company for energy credits. In the meantime, you will receive electricity bills from your traditional provider. What changes, though, is that you can now use your solar-energy credits to pay your conventional utility bill. What you pay for solar-community credits is cheaper than the rate your utility company charges you, so you are able to pay your conventional bill for less than normal.


What’s more, you may finish the month with a credit surplus and sell your unused credits back to your conventional service provider, earning a profit in the process. If you purchase a battery system for your home, you can alternatively choose to store your extra power for future use. Given enough power, it would be possible for you to live independently of your utility provider’s services. Your savings will depend on where you live, but Join Solar projects a savings of between 10 and 15 percent over your conventional electricity bill.


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Community solar works a lot like a community garden. Local utility customers sign up for subscriptions to a central solar facility—known as a community solar garden—and receive credit on their utility bills for energy produced..

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