Where’s the Community in Community Solar?
Solar is all the rage right now, and for good reason. Going solar is good for the environment and can make you (or someone else) a lot of money. If you own your own system, you make the money. If you lease or sign a PPA, someone else does.
The State of Massachusetts did some research on the economic benefits for leased vs direct owned solar systems and found that, “Direct ownership results in a substantially higher economic benefit for the homeowner.” If you own the right location and have the cash, owning your own system is the best way to go.
The best way for you to benefit from solar is to own your own system on your property.
Most of the people who want solar can’t get it. They don’t have enough sun or they don’t own their roof, they don’t have enough money, or they just don’t have the time to figure it out. Community Solar gives everyone – renters and homeowners, non-profits and businesses – a chance to go solar.
When you build a community solar project with Co-op Power, you are an owner receive the full financial benefits associated with ownership. You also have control over where the array gets sited and can choose to prioritize marginal land over agricultural land or forest.
What is Community Shared Solar?
Instead of solar on your rooftop, you share a system with other electricity customers. The array produces electricity and sends it to the grid. Your electric company gives you credits for that electricity on your electric bill.
Direct Ownership of community shared solar also results in a substantially higher economic benefit for the participants and the community.
Net Metering lets you use the grid to “store” electricity produced by your array and use it when you need it.
Your solar array will generate electricity when the sun’s out. You’ll sometimes use electricity when the sun’s out, but not always. If your state has Net Metering, your utility will charge you monthly for the electricity you use minus the electricity you sent to the grid. Without Net Metering, you’ll need an expensive battery bank to store the electricity you produce for use when you need it.
Virtual Net Metering lets you share a large solar array with others.
To have a community shared solar array, your state needs to let the solar system owner apply Net Metering Credits to the bills of the other electricity customers who are participating in the community shared solar. Some states restrict Virtual Net Metering to municipalities, farms, or other specific groups. If you don’t have Virtual Net Metering, you can get together and share the cost of a large solar system on a building in your community and have the building owner pay you back out of their electricity savings over time.
Many people assume that all community solar projects are owned by their community. Some for-profit developers even go so far to say they’re selling everyone panels in their community shared solar project, but that’s quite misleading. If you really own the project, you control it. You will be involved in decisions and you’ll have a share in the profits generated by it. If those things are not true, you don’t own it. You might have a special non-voting interest in the project, but you’re not an owner.
For more information, contact the New England Local Energy Network (NELEN):