In our community solar section, we explain what community solar is and how you can share the benefits of solar power with your local community.
What is Community Solar?
Put simply, a community solar farm is a large solar system that is shared by the community. A cluster of ground-mounted solar panels connect directly to the local energy grid and provide enough energy to power a number of homes. By joining one of these projects, you agree to contribute to the cost of the solar panels and, in exchange, receive credits towards your energy bill.
The main benefit of community solar is that you don’t need to have full ownership of your home in order to start saving money. This makes community solar the obvious choice for those who rent their homes or for homes that do not qualify for rooftop solar.
Why use a Community Solar Marketplace?
You might be debating between a community solar marketplace and owning your own system. Here you will learn about what community solar is and why you should use it. A community solar marketplace or a solar farm is a large solar system shared between a group of individuals or organizations. The cost and power produced by these projects are split and shared between the participants. But why use a community solar marketplace?
Clean energy future
Solar is one of the cleanest and most sustainable energy sources. Unlike fossil fuels, solar does not contribute to pollution, economic losses, and the destruction of the natural world. By going solar, you are helping us build a clean energy future.
Renters and lack of ownership
There is often a misconception that going solar requires you to have your own house and property. This restricts renters from benefiting from the many financial and environmental benefits that solar provides. Nevertheless, that claim is false; if you lack ownership of a house, community solar is an excellent alternative. Since it is a shared solar farm, there is no need to get your landlord’s permission to participate.
If you are a homeowner with an unsuitable roof, you should look into ground-mount systems before turning to community solar as ground- mounts yield more financial benefits. If the physical attributes of your house limit you from installing your own solar system, community solar is the next best option. According to the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory, around 50% of households and businesses are unable to host a solar system. Since a solar farm is a cluster of off-site ground-mounted solar panels, the condition of your roof is not relevant.
If you have shares in a community solar marketplace, you will receive credits for your electric bill in exchange for your participation. You will be able to save around 5-10% on your bills. However, the financial benefits from community solar cannot compare to that of owning your own solar system. By owning your own solar panels, there is the potential for you to eliminate your electric bill; instead of saving 5-10%, you can save up to 100%. Unlike those in community solar programs, those with their own solar system will also be able to receive federal and state tax incentives.
Community solar is a great alternative for those that lack ownership and/or the physical attributes necessary for a rooftop solar installation. It is also a great environmentally friendly option for those who can’t install solar panels! However, if you are not limited by ownership or attributes, owning your own solar system is a smarter financial decision. Sign up with us to learn more.
Community Solar System vs. Owning a Solar System
Everyone can benefit from solar, but it’s important to choose the best option for you whether that is by owning your own solar system or investing in community solar.
The solar energy industry is light-years ahead of what it was a few short years ago, and today solar is available in a wide range of options and price points. With so many choices, it can be hard to figure out what makes the most sense for you. The first step is to decide between getting your own solar system or joining a community solar system. Both options are a great way to save money and lower your carbon footprint, but there are several key differences between the two.
Which is better?
For those who qualify, owning your own rooftop or ground-mounted solar system almost always makes more sense financially. Community solar is a good alternative for people who rent their homes or who don’t have space for a solar system.
While community solar only saves you around 5-10% on your energy bill, owning your own system can completely eliminate your electric bill. Unlike those who own their solar system, those who participate in community solar projects do not receive tax benefits. Additionally, depending on the state you live in, there are several more tax credit options and incentives for solar owners.
Properties with rooftop solar installations can often gain up to $30,000 in value, while those who choose community solar see no change in the value of their property. This makes community solar farms less valuable as a long-term investment and more of a simple way to save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
Not only can you meet up to 100% of your own energy needs with rooftop solar, but you can actually sell the excess energy you make back to the utility company and use it to offset any grid energy you use. This means that if your panels aren’t producing electricity on an unusually cloudy day, the electricity you use from the grid will essentially be free.
In summary, community solar is a great way to lower your energy bill if you rent your home or do not have adequate space to host a solar system. Otherwise, rooftop solar is by far the most financially and environmentally worthwhile investment that you can make for your home and your future.
With financing options available for solar systems, you can start saving money on your electric bill from day one. Reach out to us and we will help you to do so: Click here to learn how you can start saving money today on your energy bills.
|Community Solar System||Save 5 – 10% on electric bills
No need to own your home
No impact on the look of your home
|Minimal long-term savings
Your bill will continue to rise with the cost of electricity
Does not raise the value of your home
No tax benefits
|Own Solar System||Save up to 100% on your electric bill.
Value of home can increase $30,000+
Low fixed-rate bill
No reliance on fossil fuels
|Must own your home
Must have adequate space for the solar system
There are two types of community solar programs
Participants are able to buy their own share of the system and are entitled to either (a) a set amount of energy from the total system or (b) all the energy that their individual solar panels produce. Ownership-based systems are similar to owning your own solar system. You own the solar panels as a part of the large shared solar array managed by a third-party company. You can only purchase enough shares in the system to meet your annual energy usage. This means that you aren’t able to sell the excess energy you produce back into the grid like you can if you own the system.
Participants pay a monthly fee in exchange for energy credits and do not build equity in the community solar system. Subscription-based services require far less commitment. There is often no upfront fee and it is easy to opt-in or opt-out. Participants often have short-term contracts of only a few months or a year and can leave or join with a phone call. This is the best option for people who want to start saving money on their electric bill with as little hassle as possible.
A Guide to Investing in Community Solar
Across the country, both community and rooftop solar are growing in popularity. In 2021, there were more than 40 states in the U.S that have at least one community solar project with 3.1 gigawatts. In the next five years, it is projected that the U.S. community solar market will contribute 4 gigawatts to the grid. That is enough energy to power approximately 650,000 homes.
Community solar is considered to be a more affordable way to access solar. Participants in community solar programs contribute to the overall cost of a large solar system, often called a solar farm. The system is connected directly to the local energy grid. By paying into the solar system, participants receive credits that they can apply to their energy bills.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before pursuing community solar.
What are the types of community solar?
Ownership-based solar has the most in common with owning your own solar system. Participants purchase a share of the solar system. In return, they receive either a fixed amount of energy from the total system or all of the energy that their panels produce. Depending on the community solar program, ownership-based solar also means that you may be eligible for federal and state tax credits.
If you choose to subscribe to a community-owned solar program, you will pay a monthly fee to receive energy credits. Subscription-based options are less of a commitment and allow you to save money without any upfront costs.
Does community solar really save me money?
Community solar can definitely still save you money, but there are things to consider before investing in community solar.
One of the downsides of ownership-based solar is that you can only purchase as many shares as are necessary to meet your annual energy needs. You can’t sell unused energy back to the grid like you can with your own solar panels.
Your program’s administrator can also charge you maintenance fees to keep the system up and running, affecting both your savings and payback periods. Overall, if you are looking to maximize your financial benefits from solar, then your own solar system is the way to go.
With subscription-based solar, it is important to know that you are forfeiting control of your energy bills. Although you aren’t paying upfront costs for a solar system, your savings are often lower and the cost of your energy is determined by your program. Your program’s administrator or developer can choose to increase your energy bills each year you subscribe. If possible, you should always try to look for community solar programs that offer fixed rates.
Additionally, your energy bills will never equal zero, like they can with a residential solar system. Finally, you should check on the rates you are already paying for energy. Sometimes, subscription-based solar can be more expensive than standard electricity rates.
What happens if I move?
As long as you are in the same utility area, you should be able to keep your subscription or share of the solar farm. However, if you move outside of your utility area, you could have to sell your share in the solar farm. Or, you could have to pay an early termination fee if you had subscription-based solar.
What are my energy needs?
When you sign up for community solar, you are also purchasing a share of the solar farm’s energy. Your solar share will produce more energy in the summer and less energy during colder months. When you are deciding how large of a share to purchase, make sure you anticipate your energy needs.
For example, if you expect your energy needs to decrease, then buy a smaller share and save money. Similarly, if you predict that your needs will increase, then purchase a larger share.
Is there a way to keep track of performance?
Make sure you go with a community solar program that provides a means for you to keep track of how much energy your panels are producing. Understanding the benefits of your share is important because you are more removed from the process than you are if you own your solar system.
How do I choose the right community solar program?
Comparing community solar programs is one of the most important parts of the process. What you get out of the community solar program can often depend on which program you choose.
For example, some projects will let you take the solar panels you purchased home with you after the project ends. Finding community solar programs with the best rates and most transparency will ensure that you feel secure in your decision. Sign up with us so we can help you find the best program for you and your home!