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Should I Invest in Community Solar?

Should I Invest in Community Solar?

Across the country, both community and rooftop solar are growing in popularity. 

In 2019, 2,056 megawatts of community solar were installed in the U.S., and in the next five years, it is projected that the U.S. community solar market will contribute 3.4 gigawatts to the grid. That is enough energy to power approximately 650,000 homes. 

community solar array

Community solar is also considered to be a more affordable way to access solar. Participants in community solar programs contribute to the overall cost of a large solar system, often called a solar farm. The system is connected directly to the local energy grid. By paying into the solar system, participants receive credits that they can apply to their energy bills. 

But before you embark on your community solar journey, did you know that having a solar installation on your property will  yield the most financial benefits? In many cases, whether roof-mount or ground-mount, you can save more money on your energy bills with your own solar system. 

Of course, community solar can still be a good option for people who rent their homes or simply don’t have space on their property for a solar system.  

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before pursuing community solar. 

The first step is to figure out which form of community solar is the best fit for you: subscription-based or ownership-based solar? 

what are the types of community solar?

Subscription-Based

If you choose to subscribe to a community-owned solar program, you will pay a monthly fee to receive energy credits. Subscription-based options can be less of a commitment and allow you to save money without any upfront costs.  

Ownership-Based

Ownership-based solar has most in common with owning your own solar system. Participants purchase a share of the solar system. In return, they receive either a fixed amount of energy from the total system or all of the energy that their panels produce.

Depending on the community solar program, ownership-based solar also means that you may be eligible for federal and state tax credits. 

Does community solar really save me money?

saving money with solar

Community solar can definitely still save you money, but there are things to consider before investing in community solar. 

subscription-based

With subscription-based solar, it is important to know that you are forfeiting control of your energy bills. Although you aren’t paying upfront costs for a solar system, your savings are often lower and the cost of your energy is determined by your program. Your program’s administrator or developer can choose to increase your energy bills each year you subscribe. If possible, you should always try to look for community solar programs which offer fixed rates 

Additionally, your energy bills will never equal zero, like they can with a residential solar system. Finally, you should check on the rates you are already paying for energy. Sometimes, subscription-based solar can be more expensive than standard electricity rates. 

ownership-based

One of the downsides of ownership-based solar is that you can only purchase as many shares as are necessary to meet your annual energy needs. You can’t sell unused energy back to the grid like you can with your own solar panels.

Your program’s administrator can also charge you maintenance fees to keep the system up and running, affecting both your savings and payback periods. Overall, if you are looking to maximize your financial benefits from solar, then your own solar system is the way to go. 

what happens if i move?

As long as you are in the same utility area, you should be able to keep your subscription or share of the solar farm. However, if you move outside of your utility area, you could have to sell your share in the solar farm. Or, you could have to pay an early termination fee if you had subscription-based solar.  

Alternatively, with your own solar system, you can increase the value of your home significantly. That way, if you do move, you will definitely get a return on your investment! One study found that customers are willing to pay $15,000 more for a home with an average-sized solar system.

what are my energy needs?

When you sign up for community solar, you are also purchasing a share of the solar farm’s energy. Your solar share will produce more energy in the summer and less energy during colder months. When you are deciding how large of a share to purchase, make sure you anticipate your energy needs.

For example, if you expect your energy needs to decrease, then buy a smaller share and save money. Similarly, if you predict that your needs will increase, then purchase a larger share. On the other hand, if you have your own solar system, you can sell any excess energy your panels produce back to the grid, receiving credit for the times when you need more energy. 

Solar energy is measured in kilowatt hours.

Is there a way to keep track of performance?

Make sure you go with a community solar program that provides a means for you to keep track of how much energy your panels are producing. Understanding the benefits of your share is important because you are more removed from the process than you are if you own your solar system.

 Here at Intelligent Green Solutions, we make keeping track of your panels easy! Our customers can check on the productivity of their own solar system through our platform. 

how do i choose the right community solar program?

Comparing community solar programs is one of the most important parts of the process. What you get out of the community solar program can often depend on which program you choose. 

For example, some projects will let you take the solar panels you purchased home with you after the project ends. Finding community solar programs with the best rates and most transparency will ensure that you feel secure in your decision.

Nevertheless, we always recommend that you have your own solar system installed if your home qualifies. You will end up saving more money, having control over your energy bills, and supporting local contractors in your community.

Often, community solar arrays are built out of state. Choosing community solar does not have the same positive impact on the local economy that owning your solar system does. If you are interested in getting solar panels for your home or business, you can contact us here  

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