Community solar

What is community solar?

Diagram explaining how customers subscribe to a solar generating facility

Not everyone can go solar where they live. This may be because they rent. Or their roof may be a bad fit for solar. Community solar offers the benefit of solar if you can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on your home.

How community solar works

Community solar lets individuals, businesses, or organizations buy or subscribe to a “share” in a community solar project. When you join a community solar project, you receive a credit on your electric bill each month. The size of your share determines how much credit you receive.

Community solar is not available everywhere, yet. Your utility must agree to participate in community solar. Alternatively, some places require utilities to offer community solar.

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have community solar. Additionally, a number of rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities offer community solar as an option.

Check out our three-part webinar series about community solar:

Find a community solar project near you

Community solar programs are expanding around the country. We’ve built a platform to help you compare your options. The list grows all the time. If you don’t see a project in your area, check back soon!


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All community solar is not created equal

Not all community solar projects are the same. 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 them. Many utilities are using community solar’s popularity to rebrand their own projects. These utility-scale projects do not offer the same benefits of real community solar. That’s why we’re working to put more “community” into community solar.

Inflation Reduction Act and Community Solar

In 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA provides new incentives for community solar projects.

Starting in 2023, small community solar projects (under 1 MW) will qualify for a tax credit of of 30%. This credit is available until 2033. These projects can earn additional credits for meeting specific requirements:

  • + 10% for meeting domestic content specifications
  • + 10% if at a brownfield site or in a community directly impacted by fossil fuels
  • + 10% if in a low-income community or on tribal land (by application)
  • + 20% if part of a Low-Income Residential Building Project or Qualified Low-Income Economic Benefit Project

Larger community solar projects can also qualify for the above. But, these only apply at the same levels if they meet certain labor requirements.

Supporting projects that benefit you, the consumer

Is it a good economic deal for participants?

Joining community solar should help participants lower their electric bills . Or, it should offer a good return on investment. If possible, customers should be able to invest in or own part of the system.

Is it customer friendly?

The community solar program should make it easy for participants to subscribe and unsubscribe. Participants should be able to transfer their share if move within their utility’s service territory. It should also be easy for participants to understand what they are paying for. The program should inform subscribers of any on-going charges.

Does it benefit the community?

Real community solar provides benefits to the community beyond the electricity it generates. This is due to the shared-ownership nature of the project. These benefits include:

  • job creation,
  • providing added grid resilience, and
  • an opportunity for low-income families to benefit from solar energy.

Resources

General

Community solar – helping more people access solar energy

For consumers

For landowners

For policymakers

cover of the community solar in Maryland report

Our work

Solar United Neighbors has developed extensive community solar resources. We’ve fought to expand access to community solar. Our work has included:

  • Developing better consumer education resources about community solar projects.  Check out our community solar platform.
  • Producing Year One and Year Two reports to track the progress of community solar in Maryland. This is a first-of-its-kind report on the Maryland community solar pilot program.
  • Leading the charge to pass legislation in D.C. and Maryland that enabled 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.
  • Helping solar owners and supporters to become effective solar advocates in their state.
  • Advocating to enable community solar programs in ArizonaOhio, PennsylvaniaVirginia, and West Virginia.
  • Providing assistance to people interested in developing community projects themselves.

Learn more

We’ve compiled additional information about community solar in some states. Are you looking for information that isn’t covered here? Contact us.

  • Colorado
    Colorado
  • D.C.
    D.C.
  • Florida
    Florida
  • Maryland
    Maryland
  • Minnesota
    Minnesota
  • New Jersey
    New Jersey
  • Ohio
    Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
    Virginia
  • West Virginia
    West Virginia

Help support our work

Did you find this information helpful? Please make a tax-deductible donation to help more people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.