What is Community Solar? What Are the Pros and Cons?

Since the mid-20th century, the current warming trend on Earth is 95% likely to be the result of human activity. As humans, we have a responsibility to live more sustainably in any way that we can.

One solution that is gaining popularity is the installation of solar panels. However, not everyone can afford this which is why states are allowing community solar farms.

What is community solar exactly? Read on to find out.

What Is Community Solar?

Community solar is part of a program or project within a geographic area. The benefits of a community solar program flow to many different customers, nonprofits, businesses, and other groups.

More often than not, customers benefit from solar panels placed off-site. The customers in this community can buy or lease part of the solar panels in the array.

To pay for this perk, a customer will receive an electric bill for the electricity generated from their share of the solar system. This is very similar to the way customers pay for solar panels installed in their own homes.

Community solar energy is best for those who cannot install solar panels on their roofs. This could be someone who doesn’t own their home, has insufficient roof conditions or solar resources, or cannot afford solar panels.

How Does It Work?

A community solar farm process will vary depending on the area a customer lives in. Not every state has access to community solar because there is no passed legislation.

In the states that offer community solar, a third-party market was created that requires project developers and utilities to follow regulations. Community solar programs exist outside of some states through local utility.

Although it is more common to have an off-site community solar model, there are on-site options for those living in condominiums and apartment buildings.

Because the laws and regulations vary by state, there is not one single approach for subscribing to community solar programs.

In Florida, there are limited community solar options. Your utility needs to agree to volunteer to participate in community solar. The utility might also force it through state-level legislation.

States are looking to simplify the billing process because the current enabling policy gives customers two bills. One bill from the community solar program and the other from the utility.

Pros of Community Solar

Similar to installing solar panels yourself, there are pros of community solar as well. The most popular ones being saving on electricity bills and flexibility.

Saving on Electricity Bills

Community solar power systems come with major electricity bill savings for their customers. The amount a customer saves depends on these factors:

  • Pricing model
  • Current electricity rates
  • Cost of subscription or community solar purchase
  • Amount of solar power received from community systems

Keep in mind that some community solar plans are more expensive than your current electricity bill. If this is the case for you, you won’t receive the major savings that other community solar customers normally would.

To ensure you get the savings you seek, it is important to evaluate long-term savings and expected monthly bills. From there, you can make an educated decision on joining a solar community.

Flexibility

In the past, a lot of community solar programs had long-term contracts that made it difficult for customers to commit or cancel when they wanted to. Nowadays, community solar companies have new programs to avoid barriers.

Find a company that allows its customers to choose short-term contracts and has a simplified canceling procedure. Without the barriers in place, you’ll be able to benefit from flexibility.

Cons of Community Solar

Community solar is not the best option for everyone. For instance, as discussed above, opting into community solar might be more expensive than your current electricity bill.

However, there are other cons to keep in mind if you are considering joining a community solar garden.

No Solar Incentives

If you invest in community solar panel installation, you are under a subscription model. These pricing models mean you don’t own any of the solar panels off-site. Instead, you pay for electricity generated at the power project.

A majority of solar incentives are for those that purchase and own their solar power system. Because you don’t own solar panels with a community subscription, you don’t qualify for rebates or tax credits.

There is a community solar ownership model where customers own a share. This is less common than a subscription program, but those who participate in it might be eligible for solar incentives. Yet, nothing is guaranteed.

Not Available in Every State

Community solar is more popular than it was just a year ago. In 2020, around 1/3 of states had enabling policies for community solar, but the number grows often.

Although there aren’t a lot of community solar options in Florida, it is one of the states working towards this goal.

Solar Panel Installation on Your Property vs. Community Solar

One of the main questions asked when talking about community solar is how it compares to installing solar panels on your own property. The main difference between the two is that you have to own the property to install solar panels.

Other comparisons that help customers make a decision include the following:

  • You don’t own the community solar power system
  • No upfront costs for community solar
  • No maintenance is necessary for community solar
  • Community solar does not increase property value
  • There is no wait time for community solar installation

Although there are benefits to both options, one decision may benefit a specific customer over another.

Should You Join Community Solar?

If you live in Florida, there is little opportunity to join community solar, but not all hope is lost. If you own your home, you can get solar panels installed by a professional company.

Although you pay an installation cost, there is a vast opportunity for major savings in the end.

If joining community solar does not seem like the right option for you, book an appointment with us today for a free home energy evaluation.