Community Solar: Is Shared Energy Right For You?

Up until recently rooftop solar options have primarily catered to homeowners. Now, another option known as Community Solar is starting to become a more viable solution for renters and condominium owners looking to get in on the clean energy revolution but unable to invest in their own rooftop solar system. Its now possible in certain areas to receive clean, alternative energy by sharing resources with others in the community. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, options, although limited, already exist in 25 states, and many experts believe the community solar market will expand rapidly over the next five years. But how exactly does community solar and shared energy work, and is it right for you?

What is Community Solar?

At its core, community solar is simply solar energy shared by multiple households. Instead of investing in your own rooftop solar panels, individuals pay to buy from a shared solar plant or solar garden. Shared solar energy resources are for those who cannot or prefer not to invest in their own solar energy system. For example, renters or condo owners often benefit from this option. You're not required to own property to participate in a community solar project. As a result, these community resources open doors for those who want to use alternative energy but cannot install rooftop panels on their building.

Community solar differs from other shared energy options such as green power or crowd funding. These resources cost extra or don't directly affect an individual's energy bill. With community solar, you'll save on energy while using a clean energy option. This also differs from group pricing, where individuals pay for their own rooftop panels as a group. With group pricing, individuals must own property to participate.

How Does Community Solar Work?

There are two main methods for community solar: ownership and subscriptions. Your situation determines which is best for you. In either case, you'll have to live within the network of the community solar plant.

  • Ownership: In this model, individuals own a number of panels or a share of the solar power plant. Because these people actually own the energy, they receive all the benefits of their share of energy. You'll need payment or a loan to buy shares. Owners typically cannot invest in more energy than they will use in a year.
  • Subscription: Individuals on a subscription plan pay for the energy they use each month at a lower cost than traditional energy plans. They do not own the panels or a share of the energy, but benefit from the reduced price. This is more common for renters or business partners, and you don't invest anything up front.

Who Benefits from Community Solar?

Community solar provides clean, alternative energy at a great price. In some ways, everyone benefits when we do what's best for our planet. But some people benefit very directly from community solar. Do you fall into any of these categories?

  • Rentals and Apartments: Those who don't own property sometimes feel limited, but solar energy is possible for renters with community solar. Join a subscription-based community solar system for cheaper, cleaner energy.
  • Community Living Situations: Condo owners and those with strict homeowner's association regulations benefit from community solar. Even if you don't have roof access or a homeowner's association discourages solar panels on your roof, community solar is an option. Both ownership and subscription plans are great in this situation.
  • Businesses: Whether you rent or own your space, businesses spend a lot of money on energy costs. Many businesses combine their resources to lower energy costs and help the environment.
  • Other Situations: Others in special situations benefit from community solar and shared energy. For example, if your roof needs replaced, receives too much shade, or cannot support rooftop panels, community solar is a wonderful option. Commercial buildings with other equipment on the roof also benefit from shared energy.

What if I am Homeowner and plan on moving soon?

Although Community Solar in some scenarios is an option for a homeowner, generally the maximum benefits come from leasing or owning your solar system. For homeowners concerned about transferring a leased solar system 99.97% of the time the solar lease is easily transferred upon a sale.

As new shared energy projects pop up all over the United States, look for community solar options in your area.

To learn more about solar energy in your area and to compare your options submit your information here to speak with a solar expert.

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