Pros and cons of community solar
Community solar is a way for any person, business, or organization to participate and benefit from renewable solar without any need to install solar panels. It’s great for those who don’t want or cannot put solar on their property. People and organizations, who participate in community solar are called subscribers. This mix of people and organizations subscribe to offsite solar projects that generate clean electricity that is placed onto an existing electricity grid. The utility companies that you currently pay, then recognize the subscribers as contributing to clean energy generation and give you a credit on your electric bill. This article will give an idea about the pros and cons of community solar.
Pros – Save Money
community solar subscribers typically save money on their electric bills. The subscription cost is often lower than the credit that you see from the utility. The amount of savings can vary depending on your type it can be either residential, commercial, or demand meters state utility programs and the company who you sign up with.
Today, community solar projects have a vast array of subscribers, local businesses, municipalities, and profits residents low- and moderate-income households, all of them are saving money on their electric bills. Who does not love saving money?
Cons – Not Eligible for Solar Incentives
In traditional solar programs, participants can purchase a solar. Back in community solar if you are subscribing to one without ownership in project community solar subscribers are not eligible for any local, state, or tax incentives for their participation.
Some of you might want to own a solar array, which would allow you to take advantage of these incentives and invest in long-term cost-saving assets. However, if you don’t own your property, or have an eligible roof, or have no money to invest maybe owning a solar array isn’t for you.
Pros – Access to Solar
community solar allows any and everyone to participate in clean energy. Because the array is located off-site, often in a nearby county, subscribers don’t have to worry if their roof can support a solar installation.
There are a lot of reasons, an organization or residents would not be able to put solar on their roof. For instance, there could be too much shading, you might not own the home. And also, it could be in a historical neighborhood, you could have an odd-shaped roof, have a lot of each deck equipment, or the roof could be too old for any other number of reasons.
In fact, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the US Department of Energy, have estimated that only 50% of rooftops for both residential and commercial buildings are suitable for solar arrays. This is the primary motivation for the establishment of community solar in the first place: to allow everyone to benefit from solar energy.
Cons – Limited Availability
Well, community solar energy is a great idea for everyone in every business, not all states and utilities have a community solar program.
Currently, there are 20 states with community solar legislation, and that number is growing. If you were in a state with legislation, your utility may or may not have a program for community solar. And then if you work in a state and utility with the community solar program, each project only has a fixed capacity. Meaning it can only serve a fixed number of subscribers.
I am going to grossly oversimplify a solar project and its subscribers. Let’s say we have a community solar project that’s 1 megawatt or 1000 kilowatts in capacity. That means, it can only fit 1000 kilowatts worth of subscribers. Now, if I have 100 subscribers that each has 10 kilowatts of usage for their business, I can subscribe, all of them to this fictional project. However, if one more person approaches me, I will have to put them on a waiting list. At least until we develop another project, or until we get more capacity.
So, if you have the ability to subscribe to community solar, do it right now.
Now let’s say you were one of the lucky organizations or a resident who gets to subscribe. But now you’re moving locations, what happens now? Well, with community solar, you can simply transfer your subscription into your new building. That brings me to community solar Pro Number three.
Pros – Convenience, Transferability, Flexibility
Because community solar projects are not tied to a property subscribers can transfer their subscription to a new building or meter.
And compared to rooftop solar, community solar is way more convenient. There are no property visits, roof analyses, or any other pre-qualifications. Most if not all customers sign up and manage their own subscriptions online.
For residents, the flexibility can be even greater, with easy cancellation processes, and typically no cancellation fees.
Cons – The Dreaded Solar Gap
These solar projects are often subscribed before they’re constructed. That means when business organizations and residents sign up, there’s often a waiting period before the system turns on. We call this the solar gap.
In some cases, it can take up to a year before subscribers start to see credits on their energy bill. The reason is that these solar projects, take a while to develop. They must go through permitting and diligence before the construction process can start. Construction is often the quickest part of the development process. One silver lining to solar now is that no one pays anything until the system is energized.
And while waiting can be annoying, nothing has really changed for the subscribers. They still get electricity, just now, they will be saving money once the system turns on. This leads us to our last pro.
Pros – Environmental Benefits
By choosing community solar, subscribers are actively contributing to the clean and electricity mix. These are new projects, new solar capacity being built and interconnected into the utility grid. Solar energy is reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. This means less greenhouse gas emissions in local areas, which leads to cleaner errors and safer, healthier environments.