Let’s start with a scenario. You’re a homeowner and you’ve decided to go solar. You, like many others, have realized just how accessible and impactful solar can be. Solar is a straightforward improvement to your home, it will save you money on electricity in the long term, and it’s a tangible step you can take to protect the planet and combat climate change.
But there’s a problem. It turns out your home isn’t suitable for a rooftop system. Maybe the roof is too old to support solar equipment. Maybe there are too many trees around your property blocking out the sun. Maybe the upfront cost and commitment of a solar rooftop are too much of a financial commitment. There are lots of reasons why you might press pause on your solar ambitions.
Luckily, solar experts have unlocked a way for you to receive the benefits of going solar. It’s called community solar. Community solar is among the most exciting solar opportunities today because it provides a way to support solar development, protect our planet, and save money on electricity with no rooftop installation or financial investment necessary.
Sounds too good to be true, how does community solar work?
Community solar is a program that makes it possible and lucrative for homeowners, renters, and businesses to support solar without needing to install their own solar panels. Instead, residents can subscribe to a local solar array that has been developed specifically as a community solar farm and begin earning solar energy credits that reduce their electricity costs.
To create a community solar farm, developers like BlueWave identify a suitable site in your utility zone, such as a capped landfill or underutilized farmland, then permit and build a solar farm. BlueWave has developed over 135MW of solar projects in Massachusetts to date. That much solar is equivalent to the annual electricity use of over 21,000 households according to the EPA emissions calculator.
Once these solar farms are built, they are connected to the local utility and begin sending their solar energy to that utility’s power grid. An electric meter keeps track of the farm’s energy production which your utility then translates into a monetary value, often referred to as “solar credits.” These credits are what your community solar subscription will generate every month, and they are what ultimately offset the cost of electricity on your utility bill.
BlueWave’s Community Solar program allows homeowners, renters, and business owners to sign up and receive solar credits from these farms. To ensure the right number of credits are assigned to each subscriber, BlueWave analyzes your average monthly electricity usage and the farm’s monthly electricity output to determine how many credits you will need to generate in order to match your annual electricity use. BlueWave then charges for these credits at a discounted rate, around 10%, depending on the state and the customer type (homeowner, small business, etc.). This discount on solar credits translates to around 5%-10% savings on your electricity every year. For a breakdown of how the savings actually work, check out our post. Thanks to community solar, subscribers now have an easy, accessible way to support solar power in their community, and end up saving on their annual electric costs!
What are the benefits of Community Solar?
Community solar is designed to improve access to solar. For the estimated 80% of US residents that are not able to get rooftop installations, community solar programs offer a way to participate in the renewable energy revolution and save money. Whether you’re the friend who lives in the city and rents an apartment, the neighbor with an old oak tree that’s shading the roof, the farmer whose barn roof cannot support panels, or the family that has dreamed of going solar but can’t afford the upfront investment for a rooftop system, solar can now be for you.
Savings are a big part of community solar programs, especially for businesses, government agencies, schools, and housing authorities who can lock in serious long-term savings due to the size of their subscriptions. However, the benefits extend far beyond the savings. Community solar helps to support local communities by generating quality jobs during construction and invigorating economies. There are also the environmental benefits of adding more clean energy to the grid. According to the EPA emissions calculator, a standard 5MW solar project avoids the CO2 emissions of burning 5 million pounds of coal—that’s the equivalent of taking over 950 cars off the road every year. With each new solar farm, we help keep our energy generation clean, and our skies cleaner.
OK, I’m on board. How do I get started?
If you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a community solar program, now is the time to take advantage! If your state does not have a program, fear not, programs are rapidly expanding across the United States.
If you’re interested in solar but unsure if there’s a community solar farm in your area, use Bluewave’s zip code tool to check availability. Projects can fill up quickly–submit your application today!