Community solar

What is community solar?

Diagram explaining how customers subscribe to a solar generating facilityCommunity solar offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their homes. These projects enable individuals, businesses, or organizations to purchase or lease a “share” in a community solar project. If you join a community solar project, you receive a credit on your electric bill each month for the energy produced by your share.

Before you can receive this credit, though, your utility must agree to participate in community solar, or be forced to allow it by legislation. A number of rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities around the country have also started offering limited community solar to customer owners.

All community solar is not created equal

Not all community solar projects are the same. We believe that communities, individuals, towns, churches, and neighbors should have the right to develop their own community solar projects.

Unfortunately, in many places only utilities or large commercial developers can build community solar projects. Many utilities are trying to use the popularity of community solar projects as a way to rebrand the utility scale projects they own and manage. We believe everyone should have the right to develop a community solar project in their community. So we’re working to put more “community” into community solar.

Supporting projects that benefit you, the consumer

As solar supporters, we look for several things in community solar programs and legislation:

  1. Is it a good economic deal for participants? The community solar program should help participants lower their electric bills by joining. Or, it should offer a good return on investment. If possible, customers should be able to invest in or own part of the system if they want to.
  2. Is it customer friendly? The community solar program should make it easy for participants to subscribe and unsubscribe. If participants move within their utility’s service territory they should be able to transfer their share to their new residence. It should also be easy for participants to understand what they are paying for. The program should inform subscribers of any on-going charges for maintenance or other costs.
  3. Does it benefit the community? A key trait of community solar is that the shared-ownership nature of the system provides benefits to the community beyond the electricity it generates. This includes job creation, providing added grid resilience, and an opportunity for low-income families to benefit from solar energy.

Resources

General

For consumers

For landowners

  • Guide to Land Leases for Solar – This SEIA guide helps landowners understand the opportunities and implications of leasing their property for solar installations.
  • Landowner Considerations for Solar Land Leases – This PDF from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) examines what to consider when leasing your property for community solar projects.

For policymakers

Our work

Solar United Neighbors has worked extensively to provide consumer education and resources about community solar. We’ve also worked to pass community solar legislation in some states where we run on-the-ground programs. Our work has included:

  • Producing a first-of-its-kind report on the Maryland community solar pilot program. Download your free copy of the report today!
  • Providing a monthly newsletter profiling community solar project models around the country. Sign up for our newsletter.
  • Developing better consumer education resources about community solar projects. Not all community solar is a good or fair deal for customers or ratepayers. We are working to evaluate specific projects and give the public clear criteria for comparing and evaluating one project to another. Check out our reviews and additional resources.
  • Leading the charge to pass legislation in D.C. and Maryland that allow for community solar.
  • Ensuring better access to the market by creating rules that facilitate low-income and local participation in the market. Limited programs or utility run programs tend to leave regular people out of the market and out of opportunities to make money from the market. Our work has particularly impacted program design in D.C. and Maryland.
  • Providing technical assistance to communities developing community projects themselves. We are providing assistance where we can and sharing lessons learned between groups so communities don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time they start a community solar project.
  • Connecting subscribers to potential projects. Check below to see if community solar is available in your state and sign up on your state page to learn about future community solar projects in your area.

Learn more about community solar in your state

  • D.C.

    D.C.

  • Florida

    Florida

  • Maryland

    Maryland

  • Minnesota

    Minnesota

  • New Jersey

    New Jersey

  • Ohio

    Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania

  • Virginia

    Virginia

  • West Virginia

    West Virginia

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