A Look at Community Solar

With advances in solar technology and improvements in the installation process, solar power systems continue to grow in popularity among home and business owners who are keen to lock in at lower energy rates. Community solar was created as a way to make solar power available to those who wouldn’t be able to afford the technology on their own, or who live in multi-family residences.  Let’s take a look at these community programs:

Understanding Community Solar Programs

A solar community is simply a solar system that provides power and financial benefits to many people in a community. All community members can reap the benefits of solar energy without the large investment, installation, and (minor) maintenance. Moreover, the solar panels and system are set up in a central location and all equipment and power are owned and equally shared by every program participant.

Different Types of Solar Communities and How They Work

There are four ways to organize a solar community. These include:

  • On-bill crediting model (also known as virtual net metering)- members invest in a facility and receive credits on their monthly utility bills in the form of a monetary credit or reduced kilowatt-per-hour (kWh) rate
  • Non-profit model – a community is created by private donor to supply sustainable energy to a low-income area
  • Utility-sponsored model – These communities include a solar array that is owned and operated by a utility company. Community members can buy lease shares of the generated energy from that solar array and have credits applied to their utility bills.
  • Special purpose model – Solar communities that include production projects sponsored by businesses. They’re open for investment to other businesses and individuals, and the financial benefits of solar energy are shared by all investors.

While a solar community can follow any of these models, most communities have a basic shared power collection and cost infrastructure. This means that all members have access to the shared power source and receive credits or financial benefits. If you know how solar power works then you know that even shared energy will help reduce your utility bills and carbon footprint.

Differences Between Community and Private Solar

Before taking the plunge and enrolling in a community solar program, it could be beneficial to learn the differences between community or public and private or personal solar systems. Of course, the most obvious difference between the two is that a personal system is installed on or near your home or business, while a public system is installed in a central location. If you receive power from community solar panels, you won’t have to worry about where to install them, how to install them, or if you have enough room for them. You also won’t have to apply for any building permits or receive approval for a panel installation. If the community solar program is new, however, you will share the cost of installation, and although the cost will be less than if you were to purchase the system on your own, there may be some restrictions on solar power usage and administration fees deducted from the profits.

If you are a member of a community that is interested in learning more about a community solar program, please contact us at MiEnergy.