With community solar, you can subscribe to a share of a solar farm near you. If you have an electric bill, you can support renewables without installing anything on your property – and save money!The Bay State was one of the first in the country to offer community solar options. Much of this is due to the passage of the Green Communities Act in 2008, which established the state’s first solar carve-out. This piece of legislation also helped form MA’s virtual net metering policy that allows electricity customers to receive bill credits for energy generated at community solar farms. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Massachusetts had roughly 208 community solar projects as of late 2020.
A community solar project is a solar farm whose electricity is shared by more than one property. The primary purpose of a community solar farm is to allow members of a community to share the benefits of solar power even if they cannot or prefer not to install solar panels on their property. Project participants benefit from the electricity generated by the community solar farm, which costs less than the price they would ordinarily pay to their utility.
Savings differ from program to program, and also vary by month. On average, most community solar subscribers in Massachusetts receive a 5-10% discount off of traditional electricity costs over the course of a year.
Signing up for community solar is extremely simple – especially when you do so through the EnergySage Community Solar Marketplace! Here’s a list of the steps you’ll need to take through our Marketplace in order to sign up:
Community solar could be a great option for you. It has many different benefits including traditional benefits of going solar like environmental friendliness and cost savings.
Community solar programs help support local renewable energy jobs and project development in Massachusetts, connecting you directly to clean energy projects in your community.
You can save 5-10% off of your annual electricity costs with community solar.
Unlike rooftop solar, you don’t need to own your property to take advantage of community solar (you just need an electric bill!)
Many community solar farms have no subscription fee and are easy to opt-out of. Plus, you don’t need to install or maintain any equipment on your property.
Virtual net metering (VNM) is a bill crediting system for community solar. It refers to when solar is not used on-site but is instead externally installed and shared among subscribers. In this case, you receive credits on your electric bill for excess energy produced by your share of a solar garden.
In Massachusetts, virtual net metering and traditional net metering for rooftop solar work the same way in terms of credit calculation. Residents of the bay state are able to earn credits back on the electricity generated by solar panels they subscribe to through community solar no matter what company they are a customer of.
There are 8 community solar developers offering 17 active projects in Massachusetts.
Which option is right for you?
Here are some of the main differences to keep in mind as you’re deciding between community and rooftop solar:
|Community solar||Rooftop solar|
|Cost||No upfront cost||Does have an upfront cost; $0-down financing available|
|Savings||Lower savings||Maximum long-term savings|
|Accessibility||Available to renters & property owners||Only available to property owners|
|Maintenance||No maintenance required||Maintenance may be required and is the responsibility of the system owner|
|Incentives||Not eligible for most solar incentives||Eligible for state and federal solar incentives (e.g. the federal tax credit)|
|Property value benefits||Has no impact on property value||Increases property value|
There are plenty of misconceptions out there about community solar, but luckily we’re here to help clarify. Here are some of the truths about community solar:
Since you don’t need to have a suitable rooftop for solar to participate in a community solar project, it’s a great option for renters and people who live in shared housing. By purchasing a share of or subscribing to a community solar project, everybody can benefit from solar while paying less for electricity.
Back in the day, community solar often cost more than what you’d otherwise pay your utility – so it’s understandable if you still think that’s the case. However, it’s the opposite! By signing up for community solar, you’ll actually save money on an annual basis.
Ever received a letter in the mail urging you to sign up for a clean electricity plan? Or had someone knock on your door asking you to sign up for a green power plan? Community solar is not the same thing! Here’s a breakdown of how community solar compares to other electricity options:
|Community solar||Community choice aggregation||Green power||Standard utility offering|
|Generates savings||Typically yes||Sometimes||Typically no||No|
|Supports local renewable energy development||Yes||Sometimes||Typically no||No|
|Has consolidating billing||Typically no||Typically yes||Sometimes||Yes|
|Do you get renewable energy certificates (RECs)||Typically no||Typically yes||Yes||No|
To learn more about these electricity plans, check out this article.
Community solar can take up a lot of space, so it’s easy to be confused about how it’s environmentally friendly – don’t these projects clear trees? While some solar farms will require the cutting of trees, many don’t! In fact, a lot of community solar projects are built on otherwise unusable land like landfills or brownfield sites. Some states even provide financial incentives to developers who choose to build projects on these sites. And overall, even if some trees need to be cleared for a community solar project to be developed, the net environmental benefit is still worth it in most cases.
Many people think that signing up for community solar means a long-term commitment – and we understand why! In the past, community solar subscriptions were often structured similarly to power purchase agreements in which you’re locked in for 20 or even 25 years. However, today, community solar subscriptions are much more flexible. Most companies don’t require a long-term agreement and you can cancel your subscription for free.