Achieving Clean Energy Through Community Solar

Community solar, commonly called “shared solar,” is an excellent method for supporting green energy while saving money. These projects provide credits on your electric bill based on the array’s monthly electricity. There are a variety of subscription models that vary by state, but most operate on an upfront payment model. It also allows renters, students, and co-op/condo owners to participate in the program.

Win-Win for your Community

Community solar can provide clean energy to households that couldn’t install their rooftop systems. For example, those without roofs in rural areas or cities with strict zoning laws can benefit from the centralized, shared approach. Those with a low credit score or those who don’t own their homes can participate because the community solar model uses either subscription or purchase-based models. Under the subscription model, you pay a reduced rate for the electricity sourced from a community solar project. Then, it’s credited to your utility bill. You typically receive two bills—one from the community solar program and one from your utility company. The value of the credits on your utility bill varies by state and utility area. The purchase-based model is more similar to buying a home-based rooftop system. But instead of purchasing a set number of panels or kilowatt-hours from the community solar farm, you buy a share of the entire project’s capacity. You then get electricity credit on your electric bills based on the kilowatt-hours you purchased.

Many community solar projects are located in low-income neighborhoods, also known as environmental justice communities. They tend to be near polluting fossil fuel plants, where people of color are most likely to live. These communities have historically been overlooked in the clean energy space. Still, with community energy solar, they can participate and reap all the benefits, including lower energy costs and cleaner air.

Win-Win for Everyone

Community solar is a great way to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels, combat climate change, and save money on your energy bills. And it’s accessible to anyone who pays an electricity bill, even renters and people in multifamily buildings or commercial spaces that cannot install rooftop solar panels. Community solar subscriptions are available to households, non-profits, religious and educational organizations, schools, businesses, cities, utilities (and even large corporate and industrial users).

The solar community model works by offering participants the opportunity to purchase either ownership of a set number of panels or a share of a project connected to their local utility and providing them with energy credits on their electric bill. The solar credits are applied to their utility bill each month and equate to savings for the subscriber. This model provides more flexibility than a rooftop solar installation, as there are no upfront costs, and the subscriber can move to a new home within their utility service territory and keep their solar membership with them. In addition to these benefits, community solar projects are often located in historically marginalized communities and prioritize access for low-income residents and communities of color. 

Win-Win for the Environment

Whether participating in a community solar program or using your utility directly, you reduce fossil fuel emissions and contribute to a cleaner, greener environment. Commercial real estate rooftops are a largely untapped renewable energy source. Community solar is a great way to maximize this potential while creating a new revenue stream for property owners and helping them deliver on their ESG (Environmental Social Governance) metrics. The community solar model allows participants to buy into a large solar installation, sometimes called a “solar farm” or “solar garden.” A massive solar array generates enough energy to power hundreds or thousands of homes. The energy that this system produces is fed into your local electric grid, where it offsets the use of fossil fuels. Depending on how much power your monthly portion of the project has, which varies depending on the season, you will earn credits on your utility bill. Community solar has proven to be an excellent solution for consumers looking to take a positive step toward clean energy, especially those unable to install solar on their homes. It is especially true for low-income earners and renters, who typically cannot benefit from the long-term savings residential solar offers. 

Win-Win for your Pocketbook

Community solar, sometimes called “shared solar,” is a great way to save money on electricity. It lets you subscribe to a local solar project that produces clean energy rather than installing panels on your roof. Each month, you get credits on your electric bill based on the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) produced by the solar facility. These credits are often less than what you would pay your utility company to buy the same power. You can enroll in a shared solar program by signing up with a local provider, such as Perch, or through your utility provider. Each month, you’ll receive two bills: one from your utility and one showing the credit value of the kWh produced by your local community solar project. It is a great way to save money and support a cleaner grid!

One of the best things about community solar is that it opens the door for people who can’t go solar independently. It includes renters, homeowners, small businesses, non-profits, and municipal buildings. It also expands access to clean energy for low-income communities, which historically have been exposed to the health impacts of dirty fossil fuels. As more community solar projects are built, rooftop solar costs will be reduced, lowering prices for all.