Solar panels for apartments: How renters can go solar

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Can you go solar if you rent your home or live in an apartment? The simple answer for renters who want solar panels for their apartment or house is that it's possible! While you may be able to pitch your landlord to install a rooftop solar panel system, community solar is more likely to be your best bet to enjoy the benefits of solar if you don't own your roof space through incentives like virtual net metering, community solar participants can earn credits back on their electricity bill, saving money every month.

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Key takeways about solar power for apartments

  • If you're a renter, subscribing to a community solar project is your best option for going solar.

  • Community solar projects are large, off-site solar farms you can subscribe to.

  • Are you interested in joining a community solar farm? Browse our community solar marketplace for local projects to help you save on electricity.

When looking for alternative ways to go solar, other than giving your landlord a call and talking through an installation on your apartment building or home, community solar (also known as roofless solar, solar gardens, or shared solar) is an excellent option for you to consider if you aren't a homeowner.

A community solar project is a large, central solar power plant whose electricity is shared by more than one property. While the size of a residential solar installation is measured in kilowatts, community solar projects are measured in megawatts, meaning that a single community solar project can power hundreds (or even thousands!) of properties – both rented and owned. Since you don't need a suitable solar rooftop to participate in a community solar project, it's an excellent option for renters and people who live in shared housing. When you purchase a share of, or subscribe to, a community solar project, you can benefit from solar and pay less for electricity, even if you live in an apartment complex or rental property without solar panels on your roof.

If you live in an apartment or rooftop, solar isn't a viable option; there are many reasons to use community solar. In addition to saving on energy costs while reducing the effects of climate change, you'll still save money on energy bills, you'll have flexible contract options, and you can support the local development of clean energy while reducing your carbon footprint. Meeting your energy needs with community solar allows you to tap into a renewable energy source without owning a home.

Save money on your electricity bills

One of the most significant advantages of community solar is the electric bill savings. The amount you can save with community solar varies depending on several factors, including but not limited to:

  • The pricing model of the program you participate in

  • Your current electricity rates

  • The cost of your community solar purchase or subscription

  • How much electricity you receive from the community solar farm.

Many community solar subscribers and portion owners save 5 to 15 percent off their typical electricity bills. However, some community solar programs may be more expensive than your current electricity bill, so evaluating both expected monthly bills and long-term savings is vital as you decide whether to join a community solar farm.

Community solar options are flexible

The program and contract structure is one of the historic roadblocks to widespread community solar adoption. Many community solar programs used to include long-term contracts with high cancellation fees, making it difficult for customers to commit by making the cancellation process difficult. These days, community solar companies are constantly opening new programs that remove these barriers. These newer programs often allow customers to opt into shorter-term contracts and simplify canceling or transferring a contract. 

Support local clean energy development

Community solar programs help reduce emissions and reliance on fossil fuels and support local renewable energy jobs and project development in your area. With community solar, you are connected directly to clean energy projects in your community. The more projects around you that fill up and go live, the more clean energy gets connected to your local grid, and the more electric customers who can keep relying on a solar power system.

If you rent your home and find that you aren't the right fit for community solar, you can still go solar in some other unorthodox ways, but components such as inverters can get expensive. The most straightforward option may be to ask your landlord or the company that owns your building to install panels. While not guaranteed, this may save them money in the long run, transferring the savings to you and others who live in the building.

There are also options for you to install small DIY portable solar panels. While not as reliable or efficient as professionally installed panels, technologies like these or solar kits can allow you to use solar energy as a charger for small devices.

If you're a renter looking to benefit from solar, the best way to start is to compare community solar projects on the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace. By subscribing, you can filter by all sorts of project details, read about individual developers and panel locations, and compare your estimated yearly savings. Get started today to start saving money on electric bills, even as a renter or apartment dweller.

Get the benefits of solar without installing panels
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