Let’s start with a scenario. You’re a homeowner and you’ve decided to go solar. It seems obvious at this point, right? Solar is a straightforward improvement to your home, it will save you money on electricity in the long term, and it’s a tangible step you can take to help the planet and combat climate change.
You, like many other Americans, have realized just how accessible and impactful solar can be. But there’s a problem. Turns out your home isn’t suitable for a rooftop system. Maybe the roof is too old to support added equipment. Maybe there’s too many trees around your property blocking out the sun. Maybe the upfront cost and commitment of a solar rooftop is too big a pill to swallow. There are lots of reasons why people press pause on their solar ambitions. Luckily, solar experts have unlocked new ways for people to save from solar energy without needing to install a rooftop system. Introducing community solar – a new way to save money on electricity that is making solar more accessible than ever before.
“Save from solar energy without needing to install a rooftop system."
Sounds too good to be true, how does community solar work?
Community solar is an alternative approach to solar development that makes it possible for homeowners, renters, and businesses to go solar without needing to install their own solar panels. Instead, residents can subscribe to a local community farm in exchange for solar energy credits that reduce their electricity costs and show their support of clean, renewable energy in their community.
It all starts with a local solar project, often referred to as a community solar farm. A suitable site in your area is identified, usually on capped landfills, open fields, or the roofs of commercial buildings, planning and permitting begin, and the project is then constructed. BlueWave has built many such projects in Massachusetts over the years.
Once complete, the farm supplies clean electricity to the grid, and an electric meter tracks the farm’s production that your utility then translates into a monetary value, often referred to as ‘solar credits’.
With most community solar models, homeowners, renters, and business owners can sign up to purchase solar credits generated at local community solar farms through providers, like BlueWave. To ensure the right number of credits are assigned to each subscriber, an analysis is done to determine their average monthly electricity usage and the farm’s monthly electricity output.
Credits are reflected on the subscriber’s electricity bill, reducing what they owe their utility each month. Community solar providers like BlueWave, in turn, charge subscribers a discounted rate for their credits. As a result, subscribers have an easy, accessible way to support solar power in their community, and end up saving between 5 and 10 percent on their electricity costs each year.
Who can sign up for community solar?
Community solar is designed to let everyone, everywhere tap into solar energy savings. For the first time it’s making solar available to the friend who lives in the city and rents their apartment. To the neighbor with an old oak tree that’s shading their roof. To the farmer who’s barn roof and older home are in no condition to support panels. To the family that has dreamed of going solar, but can’t afford the upfront investment for a rooftop system.
Simply put, community solar makes it possible for anyone with a residential electricity bill to save money and support clean energy, all without the hassle or upfront cost of installing solar panels on their property. In return, community solar programs make it possible for solar developers to construct and operate more farms. If you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a community solar program, now is the time to take advantage! If your state does not have a program, fear not, programs are rapidly expanding across the United States. The result? With more clean solar power entering the local electric grid, the less reliance our communities have on generating power from other, dirtier sources of energy.
The benefits of community solar extend beyond your household too. Local organizations such as government agencies, schools, and housing authorities can subscribe to community solar farms and lock in long-term electricity savings. That makes a big difference for organizations with limited budgets and big energy expenses. When these organizations benefit, so too does the surrounding community. Local jobs are created, economies are invigorated, and environmental resources are preserved.
“The benefits of community solar extend beyond your household."
OK, I’m on board. Am I eligible?
We’re often asked, what’s the catch? You’re telling me that community solar is free to sign up, easy to cancel anytime, and will save me money? Why aren’t more people talking about this? Well, turns out community solar might be more popular than you think. Programs already exist in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Michigan, and Oregon, with even more states considering policies to make community solar possible.
If there is a limitation with community solar, it’s the variations and complexities that exist from state-to-state, program-to-program. While technology and innovation have made community solar a much more straightforward, easier to access product for customers, there is still a complex landscape of regulations and guidelines. Luckily, as more programs pop up, and more companies offer competitive solutions, the market for community solar is expanding, and becoming much simpler in the process.
If you’re interested in solar but unsure if there’s a community solar farm in your area, use Bluewave’s application tool to check availability. Projects can fill up quickly – submit your application today!