Top 10 Reasons to Love Community Solar

August 31st, 2016

Based on an article by the Environmental Defense Fund, authored by Jorge Madrid, Aug. 2, 2016

  1. Access – Costs and homeownership can act as barriers to solar access, but community solar eliminates the need for the upfront purchase or financing of a rooftop system. Utilities or a third party developer cover the cost of building a larger, shared-system in a region, which local residents can subscribe to. Further, many programs allow customers to transfer their benefits if they move to a new apartment or home within the program’s jurisdiction.
  2. Customer Savings – Community solar can save customers money and help protect against rising energy prices as most programs allow you to “lock-in” a rate. Enrolling in a community solar program, paired with energy efficiency upgrades, can help some customers keep a stable and affordable energy bill.
  3. Partnerships – “Community” solar needs community buy-in, which requires meaningful engagement and partnerships. A successful program should reflect shared goals, values, and priorities. The best programs will include partnerships with local non-profits and community leaders, like we’re seeing in Los Angeles, Colorado, and North Carolina, for example.
  4. Climate Leadership – A strong community solar program can work in tandem with rooftop solar, utility-scale clean energy, electric vehicles, and battery storage to reduce harmful carbon pollution from our electric grid. In 2014, solar power helped avoid an estimated 20 million metric tons of harmful carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.
  5. Environmental Justice – Community solar can help avoid, and eventually retire, dirty power plants, which spew harmful toxins and air pollution. This is critical because a disproportionate number of low-income people and people of color live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and nearly 40 percent of communities of color breathe unhealthy, polluted air.
  6. Jobs – The solar industry has grown jobs at an impressive rate: Adding workers nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy, solar employment has grown by 86 percent in the past five years. A strong community solar program can continue this trend and include a pipeline to well-paying, local jobs.
  7. Location– Community solar systems can be built in centralized locations, which cuts costs while also remaining relatively small in size and close to users. The location of a community solar system in or near a community improves visibility of clean energy solutions, and paired with equity goals can lead to increased investment in communities most impacted by pollution and poor infrastructure.
  8. Conservation – Community solar and solar projects in general preserve land from being permanently developed as stores or buildings, by developing on brownfields or other agricultural land that is underutilized or poor for crop farming. The land can often be restored to agricultural use again in the future. Also, many solar developers pledge to use “pollinator friendly” and native vegetation as grasses and landscaping around the project to preserve the local habitat.
  9. Utility Savings – Community solar can allow utilities to meet state or local mandates for distributed generation at a 40 percent cheaper per-kilowatt installation cost than single home-sized systems. What’s more, utilities can build systems on utility- or municipally-owned land, greatly reducing project-development costs.
  10. Resiliency – A neighborhood-scale, clean-energy network can support microgrids that can disconnect from the main grid during blackouts to ensure the lights stay on. As extreme weather events become more common due to climate change, community solar paired with microgrids can help protect people from power disruptions.