The U.S. Department of Energy defines “community solar as any solar project or purchasing program, within a geographic area, in which the benefits of a solar project flow to multiple customers such as individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups. In most cases, customers are benefitting from energy generated by solar panels at an off-site array.”
Property owners consider community-solar options for a couple key reasons or a combination of them. For one, sometimes property features—such as trees, directional orientation, and roofing material—prevent the installation of solar panels on the rooftop or elsewhere on the property. This installation can be a major expense in purchasing your own solar panels. Two, property owners might like the idea of belonging to a clean-energy collective that helps the environment—or both. Whereas site-specific solar arrangements have barred renters from joining the solar movement, community-solar options now make solar available to renters too. The community-solar model is also more affordable than site-specific solar, making solar energy more available to people with low to moderate income. Below you’ll find a brief explanation of how community solar works and an explanation of why it’s a good deal.
How Community Solar Makes a Great Deal
Property owners or renters pay for solar-sharing subscriptions to a community solar farm or garden in the area. The subscription price will depend on the amount of energy used monthly by a specific property. Once energy is produced at a community solar site, that energy is made available to all subscribers, ensuring an ample amount of clean energy for all those properties. This arrangement means that local subscribers are helping their state governments locally generate entirely renewable energy.
Community-solar subscribers pay their solar company for energy credits. They still receive standard utility bills, but those costs and fees get offset by the less-expensive community-solar credits. Your savings will vary by state, but Join Solar estimates a savings of at least 10 percent and as much as 15 percent, depending on where you live.
An Easy 10% to 15% Savings
Any way you look at it, community solar is a good deal. Relative to standard energy rates, 10 to 15 percent marks a significant savings, without the cost and hassle of installing solar equipment on your property (or missing out altogether because you rent or because it’s too expensive). And that’s only if you consider the financial gains of community solar. Other incentives include knowing that you and your like-minded neighbors are doing your part to combat climate change. If you move, you don’t have to worry about transferring your solar agreement to the next occupant of your home. Because community-solar sites are located off your property, you don’t have to worry about maintaining them either.
These incentives—financial and otherwise—should make community solar a strong consideration for anyone who is environmentally minded, regardless of their homeownership status. In the coming years, community-solar opportunities will only increase nationwide.