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What is a Community Solar Program?

All about community solar, how it works, its benefits, and the signup process

What is a community solar program?

community solar program is when multiple parties share the same power and financial benefits of a solar energy project. The solar project is typically located nearby and generates enough electricity to power hundreds, even thousands, of homes. Households and businesses that sign up can access the benefits of solar without having to install a solar array onto their rooftops.

How do community solar programs work?

The backend can appear quite complex, but it is actually very simple. A solar array is built upon a large stretch of land, typically unusable land. Once construction is complete, it’s connected to a nearby utility grid. The solar farm absorbs energy from the sun’s rays, converting it to electricity that can be used by the grid. It’s then transmitted to the utility and becomes one of many sources of electricity for the local community.

Subscribers to community solar programs are still receiving electricity from their utility, as they normally have before starting their subscription. The only difference is that by subscribing, they are supporting clean energy generation and benefiting from savings on their electricity costs. Their payments to the utility help pay the solar companies for the electricity they generate.

What are the benefits of community solar programs?

Save more on your bills. The most attractive incentive for a community solar subscriber is the savings. Subscribers can save up to 10% off their energy bills. For example, a household that spends $100 each month on their utility bill will receive $10 in credits. Over 3 years, this household will be saving $360. For a larger-scale business or institution, the amount of savings can be quite substantial. For example, depending on size and energy consumption, a utility bill for a large company can vary between $5,000 to $15,000 a month. 10% in savings can amount to a considerable amount over the years.

Doing your part in addressing climate change. The next benefit, and in no way should suggest it’s any less important or appealing, is the positive impact it has on climate change. By opting to support electricity that is coming from a clean source, you are helping to combat climate change. To help you visualize how impactful transitioning to community solar can be, take a look at one of our projects, State Route 122A, a solar farm in Franklin County, New York. State Route 122A.

Breaking down social equity barriers. Community solar is optimal for households or businesses that can’t install solar onto their rooftops. This is an equitable solution for low-to-moderate-income (LMI) households or multi-family renters who historically weren’t able to participate in the benefits of solar energy programs. For example, owning property used to be a prerequisite for going solar and prevented many LMI households and renters from turning to a cheaper, greener energy source. Now, anyone and everyone who wants to participate in solar can.

No maintenance no upfront costs. Maintenance work is all done on-site and doesn’t require the subscriber to spend any of their own money on maintenance costs and or installation fees.

Creating long-term jobs and supporting economic growth. As more states and provinces adopt community solar programs, companies will need to hire employees to assist with the construction and maintenance of these large projects. By building solar projects in rural and low-income communities, we are creating job opportunities and stimulating the local economy.

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Why is it important to support solar programs?

Climate change is everyone’s responsibility and for that reason, needs to encourage inclusivity. Global leaders and governments have set ambitious targets to address climate change, including reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Going solar is a powerful step towards this goal. Unfortunately, solar has historically reinforced social inequities. Solar for low income households are at higher risk of heat-related illnesses, and are also more likely to be exposed to toxic air pollution.1 In order to address these inequities, we must first acknowledge that not every community has the same access to energy choice. Economic and housing disparities have often prevented many LMI communities from participating in solar energy initiatives. Thus, we must continue to reimagine the way we let vulnerable communities take part in climate change initiatives and focus on programs like community solar that prioritize equal access to clean energy.

Community solar programs yield a significant amount of savings for populations that are most vulnerable. LMI households typically have higher energy burdens and face disproportionate electricity cost to income. By subscribing to community solar, more money is flowing into pockets by crediting up to 10% a year in utility bill savings. Scaling up community solar and making low-income housing as energy-efficient as the average US home, can reduce people’s energy burden by 35%.1

Who can sign up?

Anyone and everyone can sign up for community solar. It’s very easy! Fill out a subscriber form to get started.

We evaluate your energy usage over a year and then, we assign you credits matching your energy use from the solar plant. Once the solar project is operational, the credits will appear on your bill as a line item.

References

1 Mendez, L. (2021, November 4). Here’s one way to make solar energy more affordable and accessible: Share it with your neighbors. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://ideas.ted.com/how-does-community-solar-work/

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