In an ideal world, every home would utilize solar energy. And people would reap all the benefits that a residential solar system has to offer. But unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and expecting to see solar panels on every roof in the country is not possible yet.
Almost three-quarters of US citizens don’t have access to rooftop solar systems. This is because they either live in apartment buildings, have rented homes, or cannot afford solar resources or rooftop systems. For such individuals, community solar can be the perfect solution.
In this blog post, we will explore everything related to community solar and why it is becoming the need of the hour. So, read ahead to know all about this up-and-coming solar-powered project that promises to become one of the most beneficial solar programs!
What Exactly is Community Solar?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “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.”
Community solar is basically a large and centralized solar-powered project that provides the benefits of solar to individuals who cannot install solar panels on their roofs. Neighbors who cannot afford solar panels or do not have a rooftop system can come together and build a large solar array nearby. It is a cost-efficient way of leveraging solar energy to power hundreds of homes in an area.
The electricity is produced at a solar array located off-site and it is consumed by a large number of subscribers in the community. In a nutshell, community solar makes it possible for people to produce solar power in one location and consume it in another.
The size of a community solar project is measured in megawatts. This means that a single solar-powered project can provide power to hundreds of homes in a community.
While there is no fixed standard for how a community solar program should look like, this is how it all works out:
To become a candidate for a community solar program, individuals are required to buy a share or sign up for the program, usually through a project developer, utility, or provider. Once the construction of the panels is completed, the subscribers can power their homes via community solar and save money on electricity.
Advantages of Community Solar
Community solar is an excellent alternative to residential solar systems. Renters or people who live in shared housing or apartment buildings can subscribe to this project to avail all the benefits of solar.
Here are some of the benefits that a candidate for a community solar program enjoys.
- A community solar program allows a large number of people to access the benefits of solar power.
- It also provides financial benefits. Participants of a community solar program can save multiple dollars on their electricity bills every month.
- A community solar program is very cost-efficient. Individuals do not need to have a rooftop, invest money on expensive solar panels, or worry about setting it up. All they need to do is sign up for the program where they are living and they are good to go!
- Furthermore, supporting renewable energy like solar also reduces our dependency on fossil fuels. It decreases emissions and promotes a healthier environment as well.
How Can You Become a Candidate for a Community Solar Program?
Becoming a candidate for a community solar program is a straightforward task for the most part. If you have an active solar-powered project where you live, then all you have to do is sign up for it.
Community solar programs are basically offered in two forms: Ownership-based model and Subscription-based model. Let’s have a look at each of them.
1. Ownership-based Model
The ownership model allows the participants to purchase a certain number of solar panels or invest in a share of the community solar program. In this model, you will get electricity bill credits as per the total power produced by the solar panels you own.
This is exactly like buying a solar rooftop system for your home. The only difference here is that you would be investing in a centralized solar project. And no solar panels or systems will be installed on your roof. You will own a certain number of panels and will make savings according to the power produced by them every month.
2. Subscription-based Model
The subscription-based model is the most common way in which people invest in the community solar program. It is a simple method in which, instead of buying some panels or owning a share of the project, you just purchase electricity at a lower price.
You don’t have to pay any upfront fee for joining and you will make electricity bill savings right away. However, the amount of electricity you can receive from the project depends upon the community solar provider.
Furthermore, depending upon your State, you will also be required to live at a certain distance from the community solar project in order to become a participant. The process of signing up for the program is pretty simple and you can do it online or through your utility.
From being slow and scrappy to getting the support of the Government, community solar programs have come a long way. Solar has put renewable energy into the mainstream today. And community solar is expanding its reach and availability to millions of households in the country.
Today, the demand for community solar projects is rising at a rapid pace across the country. States, as well as local utilities, are promoting these solar-powered projects and making them available to a large number of communities.
The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is promoting community solar via the National Community Solar Partnership. It is an alliance of community solar stakeholders who are working to increase access to community solar to every American household by 2025.
With such strong support from the Government departments and the general public, it won’t be wrong to believe that community solar is going to have a very bright future!