Are you itching to jump into the ever-expanding solar market, but unable to do so because you don’t own your home? Or maybe you’ve been told that rooftop solar is just completely out of the question for your home? Well, you’re in luck because there is still a way for you to start benefiting from solar energy: through community solar. While you won’t save quite as much as with rooftop solar, there are still many reasons to sign up for community solar – and savings is just one of them! In this article, we’ll look at some of the incentives available to community solar subscribers.
- Community solar is a great option for renters and homeowners who may not be able to install solar on their property.
- The best community solar incentives include: virtual net metering, tax benefits, and SRECs.
- To see how much you can save with community solar, sign up for the marketplace today!
What’s in this article?
- What is community solar?
- Community solar incentives
- Community solar programs
- Frequently asked questions about community solar
What is community solar?
A community solar project is a large, central power plant, whose electricity is shared by multiple properties. These projects generate and distribute renewable electricity for the grid and subscribers purchase a share of this energy–usually at a discount–to offset their power bill. As a subscriber to a community solar project, you’ll receive credits towards your monthly electric bill for any energy you buy from the project, reducing what you owe your utility company. For more details on the specifics of what community solar is and how it works, check out this article.
Community solar incentives
If you’re interested in signing up for a community solar project, there are a few different incentives that you’ll want to be aware of that make your subscription worthwhile:
Virtual net metering
One of the major incentives for going solar is net metering – a solar incentive where homeowners receive credits for the excess power that their solar panels produce. Fortunately, even if you can’t install solar on your property, you can still benefit from net metering via virtual net metering.
Virtual net metering (VNM) offers weighted credits determined by your portion of the community solar project, which helps you account for the electricity (in kilowatt-hours, or kWh) that your solar panels are generating. VNM is also referred to as aggregated or community net metering – it’s an incentive that is shared among multiple people who own or subscribe to a share of a community solar array.
The amount of virtual net metering credits you receive depends on the size of your share in the community solar system. For example, if your share is 25 percent of the array, you’ll be credited for 25 percent of the production of that system. The credits will appear on your electricity bill, offering you a significant cost reduction on your energy spending without the hassle of having panels installed and maintained on your own roof. In a sense, the massive solar array in which you hold stock will provide virtual energy to your home, and VNM credits are how you account for that energy.
Depending on your subscription and location, you might be eligible for tax benefits from community solar. Since it’s continuing to grow and develop, and is not as established as the residential solar market, there is uncertainty about whether individuals can claim the investment tax credit (ITC) if they purchase a share community solar that is still being developed – however, in most cases, the project developer will receive this tax benefit. If this is the case, the ITC may be reflected in a reduced price for the solar credits your portion of the project is generating.
Solar renewable energy certificates
Some community solar projects are eligible for solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), a performance-based solar incentive that allows the owner of the solar system to earn additional income from selling renewable energy certificates (RECs) based on the amount of energy generated from their solar system. SREC value and availability will differ depending on the state in which your community solar project is located. In most cases, even if SRECs are available in your state, you won’t directly receive them for your share of the community solar project – rather, the owner of your project will receive and be able to sell them based on the project’s total electricity production. However, because this lowers the project cost for the owner, it will likely translate to a lower total cost you’re paying for your credits.
Utility benefits of community solar
In addition to helping program participants save money on electricity, there are a few ways community solar also benefits electric utilities. Utilities can strategically site roofless solar gardens on the grid in areas with fewer generators connected. This helps stabilize the grid overall, which in the long term saves the utility money and time on costly grid maintenance and repairs. Additionally, community solar farms are one way for utilities to meet the requirements of any renewable portfolio standards (RPS) their state may have in place. Community solar on the grid counts as renewable solar energy, which is becoming required in certain percentages in more places every year.
Community solar programs
Over 80 percent of states have at least one community solar project! Twelve of those states are available on the EnergySage Marketplace, and that number is continuing to grow.
Finding a community solar program
With the EnergySage, it is as easy as inputting your zip code and utility company, and you’ll be able to see all of the community solar projects that have available spots. In the case that there are currently no subscription spots open to community solar projects near you, you’ll be placed on a waiting list and notified when there are open spots or new projects available.
If you live in an area where there is no community solar available, you can sign up for emails to be notified when there are projects being built in your area. So, even if there isn’t currently a community solar project in your area at the moment, stay tuned because there just might be one soon!
Frequently asked questions about community solar
In most cases, participating in community solar will come at no cost – it’s free to sign up and most community solar providers offer a fixed discount on any energy you buy from the project.
Yes – after subscribing, your utility company will continue delivering your electricity with no interruption in service.
As a community solar subscriber, you’ll likely receive two separate bills each month: one from your utility company and another from your community solar provider. Your community solar bill will include charges for the energy generated from your share of the project. Then, your provider will coordinate with your utility company to apply project credits to your electric bill, reducing your overall cost.
Learn more about what your bills will look like with community solar
It depends – if you’re moving to a location that’s still in the same electricity service territory as your current home, you can usually transfer your community solar subscription to your new address. If you’re moving further away, however, you may need to cancel your subscription or transfer your contract to another customer in that area. Cancellation, transfer terms and applicable fees vary by project and provider, so confirm these policies with your developer prior to signing up.
Ready to take advantage of community solar incentives?
EnergySage is the nation’s leading online solar marketplace; using our Community Solar Marketplace, you can compare local options, get a quick community solar savings estimate, and seamlessly subscribe to an open project in your area. Over 10 million people come to EnergySage each year to learn about, shop for and invest in solar. Compare your community solar options today to see how much you can save with solar.