What Is Community Solar?
The US Department of Energy defines community solar as follows: a solar-electric system that through a voluntary program provides power and/or financial benefit to, or is owned by multiple community members.
The essence of community solar is community. It is designed to expand the opportunity for everyone to support the renewable energy movement and benefit financially from the expansion of solar.
Qualifying for Community Solar
Although community solar is open to everyone, it doesn’t mean that everyone can become a member. Many subscriptions require minimum credit qualifications. That’s because solar farms cost millions of dollars to build and maintain and the owners want to ensure that their subscribers will meet their financial commitments.
How Community Solar Works
You’ve probably seen a solar farm alongside the interstate or other roadway. The developers of these farms have choices on who gets the energy generated. The options include selling it to the utility, a single large corporation, or local residents and businesses through a subscription model. The latter is how community solar works. People subscribe to a farm and receive solar credits on their utility bill. Subscribers then pay the owner of the community solar farm a discounted rate for the credits. The total of the two electric bills is less than a standard utility bill without the solar credits.
Many people wonder how the power from the solar gets to their home. The answer is it doesn’t. The power is added to power grid but not sent directly to a subscriber’s home. The utility company tracks the amount of power provided by the solar farm to calculate the solar credits issued. The only caveat is that the solar farm has to be located in the same utility zone as your property.
Community solar allows business owners and residential customers to financially benefit from solar facilities developed and funded by others. Qualified applicants become exclusive members without making any upfront investment.
Did you know?
- In most cases community solar represents the only option for people to participate in solar energy. That because for various reasons (i.e the roof needs to be repaired or replaced, there are shading issues, the roof is simply facing in the wrong direction).
- Most buildings can’t host a solar system.
- 43 states have community solar projects and as of 2018, together these projects totaled 1.3 gigawatts of power generation
- Over the next three years it is expected that the U.S. community solar market will grow by another 3 gigawatts – that enough energy to power almost a half million homes
The Future of Community Solar
The concern over ensuring a clean environment grows every day. Even if you don’t believe in climate change it’s common sense that as a society we should look for ways to pollute less. Renewable energy is clearly one way to accomplish that objective.
According to studies conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology solar energy will soon be able to generate power on a multi-terawatt scale. It is anticipated that solar farms will become a source of affordable, clean and consistent power worldwide. Private solar installations will continue to be a viable option for many, but for the average energy user community solar is the only option. The increase in demand for community solar will invariably result in further innovation, lower costs, and a healthier environment for our children and our children’s children.
The Supply of Community Solar Subscriptions is Limited
If you’re interested in participating in community solar, you shouldn’t assume that you will be able to subscribe at any time. The supply of community solar power is not infinite. When solar farms get built and turned on subscriptions become available. Demand for community solar is increasing so quickly that often interested subscribers are first put on waiting lists.