Community Solar Pros and Cons
Installing solar panels on your home or property can be expensive and complicated.
That’s why many homeowners and renters are splitting the cost of installation and maintenance with community solar. That way, the entire community can share the expense and energy savings of solar without all the upfront cost.
Of course, nothing in life is all rainbows and puppy dogs. There are some things to consider about community solar, too. Here are community solar pros and cons you should consider if you’re thinking about getting in on the sun-powered action.
How does Community Solar work?
Everyone knows solar panels are a great way to save money on your energy bills and reduce your home’s environmental impact, but solar panels don’t work on every house. That’s where community solar comes in.
Community solar is when multiple people within a geographic area buy or lease a portion of solar panels in a nearby array. It’s like a local farm produce subscription, but for energy!
The solar farms are already built, and you don’t need to live near anyone else who also contributes to the solar farm. As long as your state offers community solar, you can qualify!
But just like any type of investment, community solar isn’t right for everyone. Here are community solar pros and cons for your personal consideration.
Pros of Community Solar
Just like standard solar panel installations, community solar offers plenty of benefits to its members. Here are some of the community solar pros you can look forward to:
Reduce Energy Bills
One of the most popular benefits of swapping to solar is the savings on your energy bills, and community solar is no different! While you might have to share the energy produced by the solar array, you’ll still feel some of the savings on your electric bill.
The amount of money you’ll save with community solar ultimately depends on several factors:
- Your current electricity rates
- The cost of your community solar subscription
- The pricing model of the community solar program you choose
- The amount of solar power you get from the community system
In most cases, you can expect to save around 10% on your regular electricity bills with community solar.
Lower Upfront Cost
Even with recent cost reductions and tax incentives, solar panels are expensive. The average cost of a residential solar panel installation is a whopping $20,498!
With community solar, you won’t have to foot that bill upfront. The cost of equipment and installation is shared between you and your fellow community solar members, so nobody has to go broke to get the benefits of solar energy.
As an added benefit, you won’t have to install unsightly panels on your house. Even if your home isn’t suitable for solar panels, you can still run your home on solar power.
Solar Ratings Don’t Matter
Solar panels only work if they’re pointed in the right direction and at the right angle. For standard rooftop solar panels, your home has to be aligned just right to maximize your energy production. This is called the solar rating. If your property doesn’t have a very good solar rating, you’re not going to produce much energy.
When it comes to the pros and cons of community solar, one of the best benefits is that you don’t have to worry about solar ratings at all. The panels are in a different location that’s optimized for solar. It doesn’t matter which direction your property faces or the angle of your roof; you can enjoy the benefits of solar.
Great for Renters
Because you don’t need to install panels or deal with solar ratings, community solar is ideal for renters, even if you live in an apartment.
For standard solar panels, it makes no sense to install them on a property you don’t own. After all, you might not be there for much longer. Why would you pay so much for the next person to enjoy the benefits? Plus, how would you even go about installing panels on an apartment, anyway?
With community solar, the entire building is wired to the shared array. You can join the community solar program and enjoy clean sun-fueled energy without installing panels or long-term costs.
In the end, one of the most important benefits of community solar is the environmental impact. When you power your property with community solar, you’re relying less on fossil fuels for your energy, which is better for the environment.
Some may choose to ignore it, but our decisions today shape the lives of future generations
Unfortunately, not every home is suitable for solar panels. The roof needs to have the right angle and face the correct direction to be considered “solar ready.” If you’re interested in installing solar panels on your home, contact a local solar company to see if your property is suitable for panels.
Just remember, that if you install your own solar panels, you’ll be responsible for any maintenance and repairs. After all, you own them! If you’re thinking of installing solar panels, make sure you get a good warranty so you’re covered if something goes wrong.
Cons of Community Solar
Although there are certainly benefits of community solar, it’s not for everyone. There are also some downsides to think about when considering the pros and cons of community solar.
Even if you weigh all the pros and cons of community solar and feel like it’s perfect for your situation, there’s no guarantee that you can get it. Unfortunately, community solar isn’t available everywhere. You have to live near a community solar farm.
Currently, 41 states have at least one community solar project online. While that’s definitely a majority, there are still nine states in the U.S. that don’t offer community solar. Plus, even within the states that have a community solar project, that doesn’t mean you’ll live close enough to one to reap the benefits.
Luckily, more and more community solar farms are being built every year, so even if you don’t live in an area that offers community solar now, you might be able to participate soon.
Potentially Complicated Contracts
Because it’s a shared utility, community solar comes with contracts and agreements. One of the contracts is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that outlines the relationship between the community solar garden operators and the utility companies.
In addition to the PPA, you’ll also have to enter a community solar contract that might include exit fees, lock-in periods, share sizes, and other restrictions. These contracts can be complicated, which makes community solar less enticing for some.
Reduced Tax Benefits
Many people purchase solar panels because of the tax benefits. Most states offer some sort of solar incentive program to promote the use of renewable energy. Unfortunately, these incentives are only available to people who own solar panels, which affects some community solar members.
It’s not uncommon for people to enter a community solar agreement under a subscription model. That means you don’t own the solar farm; you just purchase the power from the farm, much like you would a standard utility, just at a reduced price.
However, because you don’t own the solar panels yourself, you’re not eligible for the tax benefits.
You Won’t Be Self Sufficient
If you’re looking to go completely off-grid—or if you dream of getting a check from the utility company paying you for energy—it’s not going to happen with community solar. You might see a decent reduction on your energy bills, but they won’t go away completely.
In the end, community solar farms just don’t produce enough energy to power entire communities. You’ll still be reliant on the grid for power—although you won’t be quite as reliant as before. If you’re looking for complete self-sufficiency, community solar might not be for you.
Is Community Solar Right for You?
There’s a lot to consider when thinking about entering a community solar agreement, but it’s a solid choice for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the installation cost or might not have a property suitable for panels, specifically renters or condo owners.
Before jumping in, weigh the pros and cons of community solar, and consider how community solar works for your needs. It might not be right for everyone, but it’s a great way to enjoy the benefits of solar energy and protect the environment without the upfront cost or hassle of installation.
If you’re interested in clean, local energy that saves you money and requires no upfront costs or property requirements, let Community Solar Farm help!
Use our community solar farm locator to find a project near you and start saving right away. You’ll be glad you did!