Most people have heard of rooftop solar, but community solar is fairly new. Here are some common questions we see about community solar:
Q: What is Community Solar?
A: Also called shared solar, or a solar garden, community solar projects are a way for multiple participants to share in the benefits of a local solar array. It is similar to a community garden or a farm share, but for solar rather than produce. The array is hosted off-site, and is open to residents and small businesses in the region with the same utility.
Q: What’s the difference between traditional solar and community solar?
A: For a long time, the only way to go solar was to install it on your property, usually on a large roof with good exposure and no shade. Most homes are not well suited for that in Massachusetts. Even for those with a suitable roof, it can be difficult to put up panels. Installing a solar array requires a large investment, and many don’t like the look of it. Community Solar is a more accessible way to go solar. By participating in a community solar project, you can support local clean energy and see some of the financial benefits of solar without the installation and investment.
Q: Who can use a community solar project?
A: Community solar is open to most residents and businesses in Massachusetts and Maine who have National Grid, Eversource, CMP, or Emera as their utility. Renters, condo owners, traditional homeowners, and businesses can all participate in a community solar project. Capacity varies town by town, and projects do fill up. You can check availability in your area by clicking the “get started” button and entering your zip code.
Q: What does it cost to join?
A: There is no cost to join a community solar project – one of the largest barriers to going solar has been the upfront cost of it.
Q: Am I responsible for the panels?
A: No. With community solar, the developer is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the system.
Q: How does this actually work?
A: There is some variation depending on the utility you have and the farm you join. In general, a portion of the solar farm is reserved to produce for you. That reservation is sized according to your past energy usage. What your reservation produces is applied each month as a credit on your electric bill. The goal is to size the reservation to offset most or all of your electric bill. In most farms, the participant will receive a separate, discounted bill for what their share of the farm produced. It’s like having a “solar gift card” applied to your electric bill every month, and you always purchase the gift card for less than its value.
Q: Who should use community solar?
A: Community solar is a great fit for those who love the idea of clean energy and sustainability, but can’t install panels themselves. It’s also a good fit for anyone who likes to buy local, or anyone who is looking for ways to cut their monthly costs.
Q: How much will I save?
A: This varies depending on the age of the farm you join and the utility you have. Most participants see roughly a 10% discount.
Q: Is there a minimum bill size?
A: No! There is no minimum usage to join a community solar project. And unlike rooftop solar, you start saving from the time your reservation goes live. There is no investment to earn back; the first month you are in a community solar project you will start to see savings.
Q: There’s nothing available in my area, will that change?
A: If there is nothing available in your area at present, you can opt in to get updates if new capacity opens up.
Q: I already have my own solar array. Can I still participate?
A: If you have a rooftop array that does not produce everything you need (you still have balances due to the electric company) then you can still participate in a community solar project. The reservation would be sized to cover the usage beyond what your rooftop panels can produce.
Q: Is this competitive supply?
A: No. Your electric bill is about half supply charges, and half delivery charges. In Massachusetts, you can choose different “competitive” suppliers than the basic utility, but it only impacts the supply half of your bill. Community solar is a different program. Credits from a community solar farm offset the whole bill, both delivery and supply charges. You can use both competitive supply as well as a community solar project, they are not mutually exclusive.
Q: My town has an aggregate supplier. Can I still participate?
A: Yes! You can participate in both your town’s aggregate supply program, as well as a community solar project.
Still have questions? Contact our team at CommunitySolar@RelayPower.com.