Did you know, solar energy accounted for 2.3% of the total electricity generation in the States in 2020. However, not every household can install solar panels.

Community solar has emerged as an effective solution in such cases. It enables all the households in an area to use solar power, regardless of their rooftop situation.

You get all the benefits of solar energy without any fuss. Community solar is an excellent way of doing your bit for the environment and supporting the economy.

Prepare to dive in as we explore community solar projects and understand their workings. We will also look at the system’s benefits and discuss a better option between rooftop and community solar.

What Is Community Solar?

A community solar project is a vast, central solar power plant. Multiple properties share the power produced by such plants, say hundreds or even thousands of households.

These programs are voluntary, and the participants enjoy the benefits of solar power without heavy investment.

In residential solar installations, the size is measured in kilowatts. However, in community solar installations, projects are mentioned in megawatts.

Community solar access enables the consumers to participate and benefit directly from the installation of renewable energy assets. It also bolsters the involvement of a diverse customer base in clean energy projects.

How Does Community Solar Work?

Community solar programs can be modeled in two different formats; ownership or subscription.

Ownership-Based Community Solar Projects

Under an ownership-based community solar project, participants purchase either a portion of the solar project or a selected number of panels.

This community solar model is quite similar to the rooftop system, except there is no need for installing solar panels or your own system on your property. Instead, you become the owner of some panels in the community solar array or a fixed number of kilowatts of the project’s total capacity.

You can purchase only the shares you require to meet your household electricity usage. The actual output of the solar project will be credited to your electricity bill.

Subscription-Based Community Solar Projects

Solar Panels on RoofCommunity solar subscription models allow participants to subscribe to the project instead of owning panels or a share of the community solar project.

Most community solar programs are based on this model. While the exact terms vary from project to project, in most cases, you need to pay a joining fee upfront, and you can save money on your electric bill right away.

In a subscription-based community solar program, you purchase your electricity at a lower rate compared to your electricity bills from the grid. Based on your community solar provider, you might have to live within a specified radius of the community solar garden.

Many community solar companies restrict the amount of electricity you can receive from the system. These programs are typically easy to sign up for and cancel.

Benefits Of Community Solar

Time and again, we’ve discussed the benefits of using clean electricity. We know that with solar energy, we can reduce carbon emissions and do our bit towards nature.

The solar industry makes a big part of the renewable energy industry, and community solar is an excellent development for the environment and economy.

Let us look at some of the benefits that community solar customers receive.

No Rooftop Restrictions

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, almost half of all American households are not suitable for rooftop solar installation.

The primary reasons behind their unsuitability are:

  • Lack of required roof space
  • Shaded roof space
  • Roofs are not oriented towards the south.

When you install solar panels in a community project, all of these drawbacks are accounted for in a way that maximizes the solar energy produced.

Ideal For Renters

Renters are often unable to reap the advantages of renewable energy sources.

One of the prerequisites of participating in solar energy projects is owning a property. As a result, renters are unable to switch to clean energy sources.

With community solar projects, even renters can participate in the system and save money on their electric bills.

Doesn’t Affect Your Home’s Aesthetic

Not everyone likes the look of rooftop solar panels. But don’t worry—you don’t need to install solar panels if you believe it will affect the aesthetic of your house.

You can still use solar energy from the community solar access. It will enable you to reduce your electric bill while keeping your property’s look intact.

Reasonable Option If You’re Planning To Relocate

Solar PanelsIf you’re planning to move to a new property or sell your home, joining local solar facilities is a perfect alternative to rooftop solar installations.

It is completely hassle-free. Moreover, if you move within the service territory of your electric utility company (typically the larger, investor owned utilities), you get the option of transferring your solar share to your new property.

Even if you’re moving far away, you might be able to sell your share to someone else.

Doesn’t Require Maintenance

When you join a community solar program, you don’t have to worry about maintaining the solar panels.

Most local solar facilities shared by so many households are covered by warranty. In rare cases when there are issues, a specialist staff member will save you the time and effort of getting the concern resolved.

Reduced Costs Due To Economies Of Scale

Cost savings are perhaps one of the most attractive benefits of community solar programs.

The principle of economies of scale applies to solar energy too. Therefore, the larger the solar installation, the lower is the cost per watt.

Large community solar projects can achieve much lower setup costs than small home installations.

Depending on the effectiveness of the project, homeowners may find community solar more affordable than installing their own solar systems.

Lower Electricity Bill Due To Virtual Net Metering

Virtual net metering is a system for community solar and works much like standard net metering.

Under regular net metering, a household’s solar panel system sends the excess solar energy into the electric grid. The homeowners receive credits on their utility bill for every kilowatt-hour of solar energy fed into the grid.

In virtual net metering, multiple community solar subscribers receive credits on their monthly electric bill for the power fed to the grid by the solar farm.

Community Solar vs. Rooftop Solar Panels: Which Model Of Solar Energy Should You Use?

Let us compare community solar farms and rooftop solar systems on different parameters to see which is one is more suited in different situations.

Accessibility

Community solar can expand solar access to multiple community subscribers. However, only homeowners can reap the benefits of the electricity generated via rooftop panels.

It only makes sense to install solar panels if you plan on staying in the same residence for a few years. An affordable community solar garden will be a better fit if you’re looking for a short-term arrangement.

Lastly, if your roof size is not suitable for solar panels, you should enter community solar.

Logistics

Rooftop Solar PanelsWhen you sign up for a rooftop installation, there are many formalities that you need to fulfill. You also have to deal with any maintenance issues that arise.

In community solar, signing up is very easy, and you do not have to worry about any maintenance. However, you need to keep track of two bills in community solar but only one in a rooftop installation.

Finances

Installing panels on your rooftop is quite expensive, and you have to incur high upfront costs. On the contrary, you can join such a solar community for free and receive credit, bill savings, and other customer benefits immediately. Even people from underserved communities can enjoy renewable energy.

While community solar doesn’t affect your home’s looks or value, rooftop installations increase the property’s value. Moreover, rooftop systems bring tax-related advantages, which community solar does not.

You will receive monthly savings with community solar, whereas a rooftop system maximizes long-term savings. Although there will potentially be ongoing costs in the case of rooftop panels, no such costs arise in community solar.

Environmental Impact

Both rooftop and community solar add solar power to your energy system. However, community solar impacts local lands.

While the power generated from a rooftop installation only cuts off your property from fossil fuels, community solar offsets emissions from the entire solar community of hundreds of households. In terms of climate change, community solar has a clear advantage.

In both cases, you’re embracing a renewable energy source, and that is wonderful for the planet.

Wrapping Up

Community solar refers to a system wherein multiple households in a community can access a single solar farm for their energy needs.

Such programs have emerged as a way to promote the use of cleaner energy sources without incurring high costs.

Depending on your needs and conditions, you can determine which system suits you better; rooftop or community solar.

If you’re still not using renewable energy and are hesitant to install huge structures on your roof, you should check out community solar programs in your area.