Solar energy systems are ideal, in theory. They generate energy from a renewable resource (the sun) so you don’t have to worry about depleting natural resources, the ongoing cost of generating energy is minimal, and the generation process is clean, so it never damages the environment with pollution. Unfortunately, a handful of downsides and obstacles prevent many individuals and companies from installing these systems—namely, the cost and effort it takes to install the initial system.
However, a new trend is emerging that could conquer these obstacles and make solar power more affordable and more convenient for individuals and organizations everywhere. It’s called community solar, and essentially, it’s a setup that allows multiple consumers to pool investments and share one common solar resource.
The Benefits of Community Solar
The most important benefit is financial—because many consumers are working together to establish the system, the burden of investment is no longer an issue. Community solar projects make solar power a more affordable, more realistic option for millions of people who would otherwise be unable to afford such an installation. In addition, because many community solar projects are installed on open public or joint-owned property, it prevents many location-related obstacles. For example, homes with inadequate roofing and renting tenants now have solar options where there were none before.
Types of Community Solar Models
“Community solar” is actually a blanket term that can refer to one of many different setups:
- Utility-sponsored models are hosted by an energy provider, who sets fixed rates for customers drawing from a single solar power facility.
- On-bill crediting models allow consumers to invest in a percentage of a solar power system, and receive a proportional credit on their energy bills.
- Special purpose entity (SPE) models are more focused on consumers, as consumers pool their resources to develop a solar power system on their own.
- Non-profit models rely on donors to contribute funds for a solar power system for a non-profit or charitable organization.
What Can You Do To Help?
It is imperative that communities are aware of their states legislation regarding community solar and that they get involved if they want to make it happen for their community. This starts with knowing your state senators and governors and more importantly their stance on solar energy initiatives. Community solar is just that, solar for communities to help bring renewable energy to those who wouldn’t normally be able to benefit from it. The power is in the hands of the people it serves.
Currently, more than 52 community solar projects have been installed across 17 different states, and as the setup gains more visibility, its popularity can only increase. In time, community solar projects will bring cheaper, cleaner, more sustainable energy to homes and businesses throughout the country.