What Is Community Solar?
Community solar is a fairly new energy model that is rapidly becoming popular throughout the United States. It is catered to individuals who do not have roof access to install their own solar panels, may reside in the rental market, or companies who want to lease a section of an off-site solar array. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable 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.”
How Does It Work?
Community solar typically runs on one of two business models:
- Ownership: This model allows participants to own some of the panels or a share in the project. They get to benefit from all of the power produced by their share of the solar panels or system in the form of credits.
- Subscription: In contrast, this model allows participants to become subscribers and pay a lower price for the electricity sourced from the community solar farm. However, they do not own the panels, they buy the power at a reduced rate, without benefitting in credits.
The diagram below outlines the process in more depth.
What Are The Benefits?
One reason community solar is becoming so popular is that it helps build a stronger, more distributed and resilient electric grid.
Perhaps the greatest aspect though, is that it provides communities who may not have access to solar with off-site options. It expands customers ability to access solar, particularly those who are most impacted by lack of access, such as low income customers. The SEIA acknowledges: “It allows residents, small businesses, organizations, municipalities and others to receive credit on their electricity bills for the power produced from their portion of a solar array, offsetting their electricity costs.”
These credits are extremely important to the success of the business model as it saves users money, while bettering the distribution of electricity within the area.There are also utility benefits linked to community solar as utilities can strategically locate the systems in areas of the grid that can benefit the most users. Additionally, developing community solar arrays enables utilities to improve their relationships with customers and increase engagement.
At EnergyLink, we are very experienced in installing solar arrays and recognize the value this business model brings to communities.