Other Clean Options  |  Community Choice Aggregation  |  CCAs vs. Rooftop Solar

CCAs vs. rooftop solar

Last updated 6/7/2019

Community choice aggregation plans can help you decrease greenhouse gas emissions while saving money on your electricity bill. How does it compare to rooftop solar, another alternative option that can help you save more on electricity costs while decreasing your carbon footprint?

Comparing the environmental benefits of CCAs and rooftop solar

solar farm versus house with panels

Both CCAs and rooftop solar panel systems have environmental benefits - in fact, if you’re using renewable energy as part of a CCA plan, a portion of that green energy is likely coming from solar farms.

However, if you’re looking to decrease your carbon footprint as much as possible, you’ll likely offset more carbon emissions by generating solar energy on your own property as opposed to participating in a CCA. This is because many CCAs have default electricity options that are not entirely 100 percent renewable energy: while a portion of your CCA will be “green” enough to meet the requirements of state renewable energy mandates, many CCAs only use 30 to 50 percent renewable energy in their mix. The remaining energy typically comes from traditional fossil fuel resources that contribute to climate change.

Additionally, many large-scale renewable energy facilities require construction on large plots of land, which can adversely impact the natural environment. For example, a developer may install several acres worth of solar panels or build large wind farms in an undeveloped landscape. Solar panel systems, on the other hand, are often installed on otherwise unused rooftop space, repurposing an already-developed area to generate renewable energy.

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Economic benefits of CCAs vs. rooftop solar

Just like you’ll have to pay for electricity under your CCA plan, you’ll have to pay to install a solar panel system. Both can save you money. However, unlike CCAs, solar panel systems are a long-term investment with long-term returns. When you install solar panels on your own property, you receive low-cost electricity for 25 to 30 years.

CCAs cannot compete with the lifetime savings from a rooftop solar panel system. CCAs will be less expensive than purchasing a solar panel system upfront, as you’ll only pay monthly like your current electricity bill. However, a rooftop solar panel system can save you up to thousands on your electricity bills because you’ll be generating your own power, thus avoiding both supply and delivery charges from your utility company.

20-year savings from purchasing and installing a 7 kW system can range from $18,690 to $24,010 (depending on your geography, the cost of the system and how much you pay for electricity). Depending on where you live, there may be state and local incentives (such as SRECs, tax credits, or rebates) that can provide additional income to homeowners who are producing their own solar electricity. Property owners who purchase solar panels are also eligible for the federal investment tax credit (ITC), worth 30 percent of the cost of your solar panel system.

  Solar Community choice aggregation
Cost Higher Lower
Savings Typically thousands over the lifetime of the system Likely less than 15 percent savings off your utility electricity rates
Environmental benefits Directly offsets tonnes of CO2 throughout the lifetime of the system Environmental benefits dependent on the energy mix of your CCA plan
Criteria Additional, permanent, and direct Not direct; permanence and additionality depend on where your government chooses to procure energy from.
Renewable energy Yes Likely a portion, but generally not all of your electricity

CCAs and rooftop solar: can they go hand in hand?

house with solar plus CCA equals bill

The majority of solar panel systems are grid-tied, meaning that you’re still a customer of your utility company and can draw electricity from the grid when you need it (i.e. after the sun goes down). When it comes to CCAs and rooftop solar panels systems, it doesn’t have to be one option or another: you can still participate in your community’s CCA plan if you have a rooftop solar panel system.

Even if your solar panel system is designed to cover 100 percent of your electricity need, you may still have to buy electricity from your utility due to seasonality, electricity consumption patterns, and more. If you need to draw excess electricity from the grid in a given month, you can purchase that extra energy you need through available CCA plans. That way, your home will run primarily on renewable energy, reducing your environmental footprint as much as possible.

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