Community solar gardens, also known as “roofless solar,” “shared solar,” or simply “community solar”, are one of this year’s most exciting solar developments. While solar gardens are only available in certain areas, many states are considering regulations that will enable community shared solar options across the country. Homeowners, businesses and utilities are all excited about solar gardens, because you can support a specific solar project and see noticeable electric bill savings without hosting solar panels on your own property.
Are you a good candidate for community solar gardens?
Anyone with an electric bill is a candidate for solar gardens, but it’s a particularly good solution if you can’t or don’t want to install solar panels on your roof. These are the top five audiences who aren’t able to install solar on their property, but can still go solar with a roofless solar option.
1. You’re a renter.
Unless you’re interested in lobbying your landlord to install solar on your building’s roof, you don’t have the option to host solar as a renter. Renters are one of the largest populations who gain access to solar through community solar gardens. To sign up, you need an electric bill in your name. This off-site solar option allows you to subscribe to a portion of a larger solar project in your area and see the benefits of that project on your bill, usually in the form of savings over the life of the solar project or term of your contract.
If your landlord pays your electric bills then you unfortunately can’t sign up yourself – but you can tell them about the benefits (namely, electric bill savings) of subscribing to roofless solar.
2. You don’t know how long you’ll stay in your home.
If you own your home but aren’t sure how long you plan to stay there, you may not want to invest in on-site solar. Solar gardens will allow you to support solar, see savings on your electric bill (nearly immediate for some contract types), and cancel or transfer the contract whenever you move (cancellation terms vary by provider).
If you plan to move but maintain ownership and rent out your property, on-site solar is still a good option for you to consider, since you can continue to pay the electric bill and include electricity charges in your tenants’ rent payments.
3. Your property isn’t ideal to host solar.
For a small percent of property owners who want to install solar, their property may have some characteristics that disqualify them from putting solar panels on their roof. These can include: roof age, roof material, roof orientation or shading. While ground-mounted solar panels can help bypass some of these challenges, they don’t work for every home. Supporting solar within your community is the next best thing to hosting solar on your own property.
4. You aren’t interested in on-site, rooftop solar.
You may love the idea of solar but for one reason or another not want to host solar on your own property. Solar is often a matter of personal preference, which is why an innovative option like solar gardens is a great alternative that helps expand the growth of solar.
5. You don’t have time to invest in making a solar decision.
If you’re going to make the decision to install solar on your roof, it’s worth doing your homework to ensure that you select the best equipment (panels and inverters), the ideal financing option (cash, loan, lease or PPA) and the right installation company. EnergySage’s Solar Marketplace makes it easy to go solar, but we don’t recommend rushing into a decision on solar. If you don’t take the time to explore all of your options, you could end up with a package that isn’t the best match for your unique situation. Needs and preferences vary, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to going solar.
Because solar gardens are standardized products, there are fewer aspects to consider as you make your decision. It is important to find a provider, project and product that has contract terms you find favorable, but the process is generally more simple than choosing an on-site solar panel system.
How to find the right solar garden for your home
If you are a renter, might be moving in the near future, don’t want or can’t have solar on your home, or don’t have the time to explore getting your own solar panels, then solar gardens may be for you.
To learn more about community solar gardens or the options available around the country, visit the Community Solar Marketplace™, a listing of community solar projects and companies nationwide.