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A Deep Dive Into Community Solar Pros And Cons

Everything You Need to Know: Pros and Cons of Community Solar

As a community solar company and now, independent power producer, OYA Renewables knows community solar programs and policies inside and out. It gives us the expertise to top New Project Media’s list as the company with the second-highest community solar installations in New York state. It also gives us the wherewithal to understand the pros and cons of participating in a community solar program.

Community solar (in the states that have programs) are designed to be accessible and often are the easiest and lowest-risk option out there. For this reason, community solar programs are fast becoming the preferred option when it comes to choosing a clean energy source and reducing your carbon footprint. In contrast, the broader landscape of renewable energy covers many types of clean energy and ways to reduce carbon emissions. Navigating the complexity of their offerings takes time and expertise. At the same time, community solar may not be the right option for your company or home, even though it may be hassle-free in comparison.

What are the basics of community solar?

If you already know a great deal about community solar, you can skip this paragraph. A community solar project is typically built on unused barren farmland or brownfields, covering around 20 to 40 acres and is connected directly to the electricity grid. Local homes and businesses can subscribe to the solar project for a share equivalent to their annual electricity usage. Renewable energy companies like OYA Renewables own and operate the solar array, so no upfront investment is required for community solar subscribers and many clean companies also offer an incentive to participate of up to 10% discount on electricity costs. Simply put, solar energy reduces electricity bills.

Let’s take a deeper look into the pros and cons of participating in a community solar program.

Community solar options are flexibleCommunity solar isn’t available in every state
Lower electricity billsSolar farms can take up a lot of space
Reduce carbon footprintSubscribers are often not eligible for solar incentives
Creates jobs and boosts local economyLack of control over output
Combats rising electricity feesNo renewable energy credits (RECs)
Suitable for renters and condo ownersSavings are fixed
No infrastructure installed on-site

Pros of Community Solar

Lower Electricity Bills

Community solar subscribers can save up to 10% off their monthly electricity bills. If the average household spends $100 each month on their electricity bill, they would be able to save $360 after 3 years. For a larger-scale business or institution, the amount of savings would be substantial as their electricity bills can range anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 and more.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

By subscribing to a community solar program, you are making a positive environmental impact. Depending on the size of the solar project, thousands of CO2 emissions can be offset. For example, State Route 122, one of our community solar projects near the town of Constable, New York, is expected to offset nearly 7,304 tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of 39,000 trees being planted.

Create Jobs and Boosts Local Economy

Building community solar farms open employment opportunities for locals. Each project will likely employ contractors, construction workers, engineers, electricians, project managers, etc. Not to mention, a huge development project such as solar farm, will likely stimulate the local economy, boosting labor income.

Combat Rising Electricity Fees

Electricity is getting more and more expensive. But with community solar, there is some protection against fluctuating electricity prices. Households, businesses, and even condos are able to have access to cheap electricity.

Suitable for Renters and Condo Owners

You don’t need a roof and you don’t need to own a property to participate in a community solar program. As long as you live in the same utility area as a community solar project, you can easily subscribe and start saving. Check out some of our community solar projects and see which one is closest to you.

No Installation Required

There is no physical infrastructure on your property. The solar farm is typically a ground-based system, installed off-site, usually on a large expanse of land like farmland. Any maintenance or repair work is completed by contractors employed on the solar project.

Cons of Community Solar

Community Solar Isn’t Available in Every State

To date, there are 41 states with at least one community solar actively running. Out of these 41 states, at least 19 have implemented policies and programs that support shared renewable energy. (SEIA, 2022). These policies and programs are crucial to establishing a thriving community solar market and here’s where the state-level governments make an oversized impact on combating climate change. When local governments pass community solar legislation, they enable their communities to take advantage of incentives that accompany these solar programs.

Solar Farms Require Space and Lots of It

A large, relatively even, and sunny space is ideal for building a solar farm. Depending on the size of the solar project as well as the type of terrain that’s been selected, many solar companies may clear the land and flatten the grade in order for the solar system to be constructed safely. This can also drive up the cost of developing and constructing the project. OYA Renewables targets land that is already clear from trees and steep grades that can require additional impact to the land.

Subscribers Receive Reduced Electricity Costs but No Ownership Benefits

Community solar subscribers have none of the responsibility, risk, and cost of owning a solar project and usually receive between 5 to 10% savings on electricity costs. There are a few additional benefits to owning a solar project that may (or may not) make the risk worth the benefits.

Savings increase over time for solar project owners. After the solar project is paid for, the owner can offset even 100% or more of their electricity costs with solar. Throughout the lifespan of the project, the savings may be more than with a community solar subscriber. In contrast, the savings percentage is fixed throughout the lifespan of the project.

Solar ownership also means control of the power generation. On the one hand, it costs money to deal with generation issues, but at the same time, you control when and how it is taken care of. Community subscribers really shouldn’t worry about this issue too much because it is in the best interests of the solar company to maintain optimal generation because they won’t receive payment for the electricity otherwise.

Subscribers Receive No Additional Solar Incentives

Community solar subscribers are not eligible for solar tax credits or rebates. Instead, the community solar developer or the company owning and operating would be the ones eligible for the solar incentives.

Solar Panel Installation on Your Property vs. Community Solar

RooftopCommunity Solar
Physical installation onto the propertyInstallation is off-site and the costs and risk are the responsibility of the solar company
Smaller size to fit rooftopsLarger in size
Own or lease your systemSubscription system
Eligible for rebates and other incentivesNot eligible for rebates
During a move, the solar installation cannot accompany you to the new propertyFlexible options are available when moving homes. You can remain subscribed to the community solar program, cancel, or pass it on
Positive environmental impact through adopting a clean source of energyPositive environmental impact through adopting a clean source of energy


Initiatives: Community Solar. (2022). Community Solar. Retrieved from https://www.seia.org/initiatives/community-solar on April 7, 2022.

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