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Community Solar: A Greener Grid with Immediate Savings for You

by Pete Lawlor


Renewable energy continues to grow as a larger and larger portion of electricity generation here in the United States. It is at the forefront of energy policy for the future at both the federal and state level. For both commercial and residential consumers, solar is typically the most common way to “go green”. On-site solar comes with some challenges:

  1. Do I have the roof space or open space?
  2. Do I buy or lease?
  3. Do I have the upfront capital available to pay for the system?
  4. How many years of ROI until I’m cashflow positive (cover the cost of the system)?

Community Solar is a state-sponsored program that allows consumers to support solar generation in their area and receive immediate ROI at no upfront cost/capital commitment. How does it work? A developer builds a solar array within a certain utility’s service territory. Electricity generated by the array is sold to the utility for grid distribution, the utility in return generates credits. The utility assigns the appropriate amount of credits to Community Solar subscribers’ within the territory on their monthly utility bill.

The consumer subscribes to a certain amount of the solar array’s electric output based on their own annual consumption. They receive a full credit for the subscribed amount monthly from the utility. The solar provider then bills the consumer for 80-90% of the credit value. The consumer retains 10-20% savings. The solar company profits on the sale of the electricity to the utility. The utility is subsidized to sponsor these programs and is able to increase the renewable percentage of their generation mix and meet state/federal renewable goals.

2,579 cumulative megawatts of Community Solar have been installed in the U.S. as of Q3 2020 (Solar Energy Industries Association). These programs are currently available in MA, NH, ME, NY, RI, MD, IL, NJ, MN, CO, CT, OR, DE, D.C, HI, and VT.

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