Community solar developers: What you need to know

Community solar developer in front of solar panels.

Community solar might be the right choice if you're hoping to reap the benefits of going solar without physically installing panels on your property. Community solar projects are large, central power plants whose electricity is shared by multiple properties – but who develops these projects, and how does development come about? We'll explain what you need to know about community solar developers. 

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Key takeaways

  • At a minimum, community solar developers are generally responsible for scoping the project, overseeing its construction, and connecting it to the grid – they may or may not own it. 

  • Community solar developers aren't always the same companies managing your subscription (but they can be!). 

  • Some of the key community solar developers to know include BlueWave Solar, Nexamp, Clearway Energy Group, and Borrego.

  • Visit the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace to explore projects near you.

Community solar models may vary depending on where you live. 

Utility-owned model

In this community solar model, a utility company owns the solar system and then sells or leases the panels to people who subscribe. Each subscriber can then buy a share of this community solar project. They receive a credit on their bill for the electricity their panel generates.

Special purpose entity model

Instead of using another third-party sponsor to create the solar generating apparatus, Special Purpose Entity (SPE) community solar models involve individual customers creating an LLC. This LLC handles most business aspects of the site, including making lease payments and maintaining the relationship with a utility and operation. Members of the LLC are also subscribers.

Developer-owned model

The developer owns, maintains, and constructs the community solar farm and project in this community solar model. Subscribers to the project do so through a power purchase agreement or a lease. With a PPA, sponsors sell the electricity to a subscriber for a determined rate every month. For a lease, subscribers pay monthly to the sponsor for the electricity. In both cases, subscribers receive a credit on their monthly bill.

A community solar developer can have a variety of responsibilities depending on who owns the project. Generally, developers are tasked with scoping the project, overseeing its construction, and interconnecting it to the grid. Community solar developers may own or lease the land on which the project is developed. Similarly, they may own or develop the project for a utility or another third-party owner. While some developers are only involved with the project's initial development, others may assume responsibility for the project's operations and maintenance (O&M) and eventual decommissioning. 

Community solar developers aren't necessarily synonymous with subscriber organizations – while some developers may also be involved with acquiring subscribers, others will pass this task on to a different company. As a community solar subscriber, you'll likely only interact with the developer of your project if they also act as the subscriber organization, meaning they send you a bill each month for your share of the project. 

As mentioned, not all community solar developers will be responsible for a project from start to finish; often, different companies will fill various roles depending on the project's owner. However, if you're curious about the steps required to develop and maintain and community solar project, they include:

  1. First, a developer either purchases land or partners with a property owner so they can lease the land to develop it for a project.

  2. The developer conducts a project feasibility analysis and acquires all the necessary permitting and financing for the project. 

  3. The project is designed and engineered. 

  4. Necessary project materials are acquired. 

  5. The developer either constructs the project or oversees construction by a third-party company. 

  6. The developer connects the community solar project to the grid so its generated electricity can become an energy source for the utility.

  7. A subscriber organization (the developer or otherwise) is responsible for acquiring and maintaining subscribers to the project. 

  8. A company (the developer or otherwise) conducts O&M for the community solar project to oversee routine and surprise maintenance, performance testing, and inspections. 

  9. Eventually, a company (the developer or otherwise) will be responsible for decommissioning the project when it's reached its end of life. 

There are a few key companies currently developing community solar projects that you should know about. We'll explain these companies' various roles in the development process. 

BlueWave Solar

BlueWave Solar was founded in 2012 to "revolutionize energy with simple, powerful solutions." BlueWave is involved with scoping the project site, engaging the surrounding community, overseeing the project's construction (they partner with contractors to complete the construction), and interconnecting the project to the grid. In addition to community solar, they also develop storage projects. BlueWave leases land for their projects and generally doesn't maintain project ownership. 

BlueWave develops community solar projects in the Northeast with a primary focus on dual-use projects, such as agrivoltaics – in fact, about half of all projects developed by BlueWave in Massachusetts are dual-use. In 2021, Perch Energy spun out of BlueWave to serve as a subscriber organization for community solar projects. As of the end of 2021, BlueWave has developed and built over 150 megawatts (MW) of solar

Check out BlueWave's projects on the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace.


Founded in 2007 by two U.S. Army veterans, Nexamp now builds and operates community solar projects (as well as energy storage projects) across the country. Nexamp prides itself on "building the future of energy so it is clean, simple, and accessible." 

Unlike some community solar developers, Nexamp is a vertically integrated company that owns and operates all of its projects from development to decommissioning. Their projects are engineered in-house, and their construction team oversees development through each phase. After the project is commissioned, Nexamp conducts all O&M and the eventual decommissioning at no cost to the property owner. In addition, Nexamp serves as the subscriber organization for their projects. 

Check out Nexamp's projects on the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace.

Clearway Energy Group

Clearway Energy Group is one of the largest developers and operators of clean energy in the U.S. So far, they operate over five gigawatts (GW) of wind, solar, and energy storage, including assets that are owned by their affiliate company, Clearway Energy, Inc. Specifically, they operate about 1.3 GW of solar, 320 MW of which come from community solar and distributed solar projects. 

Clearway Energy Group operates with a mission "to do good by [their] customers, [their] communities, [their] environment." They manage their projects from conception through development. They also have a Commercial Operations team who controls their projects' operations, maintenance, and asset management. A separate but affiliated company, Clearway Community Solar, serves as a subscriber organization for its projects. 


Borrego was founded in 1980 (over 40 years ago!) and has a mission of "accelerating the adoption of renewable energy" – with an overall goal of becoming the leading U.S. provider of solar and energy storage by 2024. They develop, optimize, deliver, and maintain large-scale solar and storage projects, with over one GW of total solar capacity (beyond just community solar) and almost 200 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy storage developed to date. 

Borrego operates across the U.S., developing large commercial, utility, and community solar projects. They don't typically own their projects and don't serve as a subscriber organization. However, they do offer O&M for some of their projects. 

Is community solar worth it?

For most people, community solar is a great deal! Depending on your subscription structure, bill credit discount, energy consumption, and the amount of energy your project generates, you'll likely save anywhere from 5-15 percent annually on your electricity costs.

How do community solar developers make money?

How community solar developers make money can vary substantially depending on their overall role in the project. For example, if it's a developer-owned project, the developer will make money directly from the solar subscribers. However, if it's a utility or third-party-owned project, the developer will likely be paid directly by its owner.

How much community solar exists today?

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), as of the end of 2021, 4.6 GW of community solar was installed in the U.S.

EnergySage's Community Solar Marketplace is designed to allow you to explore, compare, and sign up for projects near you – some were even developed by the companies we listed in this article! Don't see any projects available in your area yet? The community solar industry is constantly growing, and more and more states are introducing policies to support development – so be sure to check back soon!

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  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Enjoy 5 - 20% off your annual electricity bill
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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