While government lists of solar community developers are not available in all states, a good chance exists that a reputable developer will offer you this opportunity. However, there will be red flags to watch for and avoid, including pressure to make a quick decision, unrealistic cost savings, and promises of an “insider’s deal.” The best guide you could ever get about community solar projects is to be wary of sales representatives claiming to represent your utility. Ensure they can prove their credentials before you sign on the dotted line.
Costs of a community solar subscription
If you’re interested in using community solar to generate your energy, consider a few things—first, the cost. Subscriptions to community solar companies are usually free. However, they require a one-time fee of around $100. In addition, community solar companies may waive termination fees if you meet their eligibility requirements. Second, community solar companies typically offer five to fifteen percent off utility tariff rates. Though the actual rate of solar adoption will fluctuate over time, the cost remains relatively low.
Third, they are often not as convenient as individual solar panels. Installing the equipment on a public property means you don’t need a lot of space on your roof. And because the community solar provider takes care of installation, you don’t need to worry about how to keep the equipment. Dedicated experts take care of the equipment, so you don’t have to deal with maintenance costs.
Costs of participating in a solar community project
A solar community project is a way to generate energy without requiring you to pay a separate power company. Instead, a local utility owns the solar panels and leases them to subscribers. These subscribers purchase a share in the project, pay a monthly lease payment to the sponsor, and receive bill credits for the electricity the solar panels produce. This economic model is similar to buying an individual solar system but without the cost or hassle of installing the solar panels on your property.
One of the most common forms of solar community projects is a subscription program. Subscription programs usually require a small up-front payment and allow customers to sign up for a subscription for a certain number of years. These programs vary in their costs, but they will often provide a discount compared to the rate a utility would charge. However, many community solar programs have early-termination fees that can reduce your savings.
Getting involved in a solar community project
Getting involved in a solar community project requires collaboration between the community and a utility. Often, municipal utilities are more flexible in their investment structure, making them a better choice for this type of project. You can also participate through a power purchase agreement or lease. In either case, you will be making a monthly lease payment to the sponsor and receiving a credit on your utility bill. You will also be sharing the benefits of having solar power in your community with other residents.
Depending on the program, some projects may require you to live a specific distance from the project or be in a utility’s coverage area. Others may receive a maximum amount of electricity from the project. Subscriptions are generally easy to sign up for and cancel. You can also take advantage of a pay-as-you-go payment plan. There are also no upfront costs, and you can choose the size of your subscription.
Warning signs of a scam community solar developer
Before investing in a solar system, you should carefully check whether the developer is legitimate. Some solar developers sell subscriptions before building projects, and sometimes the delay can be years. For this reason, it is essentially important to look for a completed project with a scheduled launch date. Additionally, it would help if you continually asked to see the details of the project before signing up for a subscription. Finally, the best way to avoid a scam community solar developer is to research the project’s background and track record before spending your money.
Retaining a solar community project
Retaining a community solar subscription is easy if you move within the same utility service territory or county or sell your subscription to another eligible subscriber. However, before you do so, you should understand the restrictions surrounding the early termination of your subscription. You may be advised to pay an early termination fee or be responsible for finding a new subscriber. In addition to the benefits of retaining your project, you’ll want to consider a community solar program’s flexibility. While community solar solutions may be more complicated than traditional forms of energy generation, the technology and market opportunities are growing exponentially. Because of the ability to serve many customers, utility companies are increasingly turning to community solar solutions to realize significant economies of scale. Consumer demand is also increasing as more individuals know about the benefits of renewable energy and the low costs.