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Community solar allows you to enjoy the benefits of solar without the hassles of purchasing and installing panels on your roof. If you find yourself thinking community solar is too good to be true, you’re not alone. Fortunately, it really is a win-win, but as with any energy choice, you’ll want to consider a few things before signing up for community solar. Let’s dive into some of the primary benefits of community solar and explain its downsides and how best to keep them in mind as you compare your options.

Get the benefits of solar without installing panels
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  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Enjoy 5 - 20% off your annual electricity bill
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help

Key Takeaways

  • Electric bill savings are the primary benefit of community solar for most customers,  but it’s also a great way to combat climate change.

  • Community solar plans have increasingly flexible terms, and they're an excellent option for renters who want to go solar.

  • Community solar isn't yet available in every state, and you likely won't be able to take advantage of most incentives as a subscriber.

Community solar is a unique type of solar project that shares energy with thousands of people on the electric grid through a central solar power plant. It’s an enticing option for anyone looking to use of solar energy without installing a system on your property. Let’s review some of the primary benefits associated with community solar.  

Lower electricity costs

One of the most significant advantages of community solar is the associated electricity bill savings. The amount you can save with community solar varies depending on several factors, including:

  • The pricing model 

  • Your current electricity rates

  • The cost of your community solar purchase or subscription

  • How much electricity you receive

Many community solar participants save 5-20% off their typical electricity bills, but some programs may be more expensive than your current electricity bill. Evaluating both your expected monthly bills and long-term savings potential is essential as you decide whether to join a community solar program to save on energy costs.

Good for renters and condo owners

One barrier to installing a rooftop solar system is that you often need full ownership rights to install the system and have to install equipment onsite. This restriction makes it infeasible for millions of Americans to generate clean energy on their property. Community solar is a viable alternative if you're a renter or share your roof as a condo owner. You also won't have to worry about the high upfront costs or maintenance of traditional panels.

Importantly, suppose you move regularly and you’re considering signing a community solar contract. In that case, it's worth confirming what will happen to your contract if you move. Some community solar companies allow you to transfer the contract to the new renter/owner or another customer in the same local utility region.  Others might charge a cancellation fee.

Flexible contract terms

Historically, one of the roadblocks to community solar adoption was onerous programs and contracts. Many community solar programs used to require long-term contracts with hefty cancellation fees. Today, community solar companies frequently offer programs with shorter-term contracts and an easier process for canceling or transferring the agreement. 

If you're curious about how community solar works and what it is at a high level, check out our video below:

Community solar may not be the best option for everyone. Here are some of the downsides:

No tax incentives or rebates

Many people invest in a community solar program under a subscription model. Under that pricing model, you don't own the solar arrays at the farm but instead, pay for the electricity they generate at a rate that's typically lower than what you're paying your utility company. Many solar incentives are only available to people who purchase and own a solar panel system. Because you don't own any part of the solar farm with a community solar subscription, you're not eligible for solar incentives like tax credits or rebates. 

The exception to this rule is if you're participating in a community solar ownership model, which means you purchase and own a specific share of a community solar farm. Ownership plans are less common than subscription programs, but those participating in an ownership program may (emphasis on “may”) be eligible for federal and state-specific incentives. 

Sprawling solar farms 

When developers build an off-site community solar project, they require a lot of sunny, uninterrupted space. Depending on the company and the size of the solar project, the community solar farm you buy into may require land clearing before it’s built. This can create unintended environmental consequences, from deforestation to habitat loss.

Many of the downsides associated with the land footprint of community solar can be solved by refraining from clearing new land and building projects on previously cleared, otherwise unusable plots of land, such as landfills or brownfields. Additionally, many community solar farms can be built for dual-land use: livestock like sheep can continue grazing around and throughout solar farms. They can even benefit from the shade the panels provide on sunny days.

If environmental stewardship and reducing your reliance on fossil fuels is one of the primary reasons you're considering a community solar project, consider moving forward with a company that demonstrates sustainability and proper land-use practices. 

Limited availability

Community solar is increasingly popular but it's not yet available in every state. Today, 41 states and Washington D.C. have at least one active community solar project

To build a state's community solar market, local governments must pass legislation enabling customers to use solar electricity produced remotely. Most states with community solar offer virtual net metering, but other remote solar energy credits exist in various states.

Want to explore open community solar projects in your area and reduce your carbon footprint? Check out the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace, where you can see a list of available community projects from state to state. These listings include important details about the open project, such as the participation model, solar company, and regions where it's available. If there aren't community solar projects in your area just yet, you can sign up to receive updates as new projects go live nearby. Alternatively, if you already have a community solar contract and want to compare it to the rooftop solar panel installation process on your own property, register to receive up to seven solar quotes on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.

Get the benefits of solar without installing panels
Please enter a five-digit zip code.
  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Enjoy 5 - 20% off your annual electricity bill
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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