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Community Solar 101: How It Works and Who It Benefits

In today’s world, where sustainable living is not just a choice but a necessity, community solar stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity. It's a concept that brings the promise of clean energy to the masses, regardless of their individual capacity to invest in solar infrastructure.


But how do community solar programs work, and how can you benefit from one?


What Is Community Solar?


Community solar refers to local solar facilities whose energy outputs are shared by multiple community subscribers. This innovative approach allows individuals and businesses to enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy without installing solar panels on their property.


Many homeowners, renters, and businesses grapple with challenges when considering solar energy. For some, it can be cost prohibitive to install a solar PV system on their own roof. For others, their rooftop may not receive the proper exposure to the sun’s rays, or they may not even have the right to install panels on their rooftops at all.

Community solar programs, which require enabling by state and local authorities, elegantly circumvent these hurdles. Anyone with an electric bill, including renters, residents in multi-unit buildings, and businesses lacking roof ownership, can participate. It's a perfect solution for those who face financial, spatial, or structural constraints in adopting solar energy.


How It Works


  1. Development of the Project: First, a community solar project is constructed and begins to generate clean solar-powered energy.

  2. Subscription and Allocation: Individuals, local businesses, schools, and others subscribe to the project. The company responsible for assigning shares in the solar facility analyzes a prospective subscriber’s utility bill to learn their average monthly electric usage and determine how many panels, or what percentage of the solar project’s output, that subscriber should be assigned. The goal is to align a subscriber’s average energy usage with the amount of energy they sign up to receive.

  3. Capacity: Community solar projects usually provide between two and five megawatts (MW) of electrical capacity, which is typically enough to offset the electrical usage of between 300 and 800 homes or businesses per month. A project’s capacity limits are determined by the state’s legislation governing the program.

  4. Billing and Savings: Subscribers are not directly connected to the solar array, but rather receive credits on their utility bills corresponding to the energy produced by their share of the array’s panels. The cost of solar-generated kilowatt-hours (kWh) is typically lower than the standard utility rate, ensuring savings (typically between 10% and 20%).


How It Benefits Communities


Beyond the immediate savings on utility bills, community solar projects can help revitalize communities in numerous ways. Here’s how:


  • Widening Access: It makes solar energy accessible to those unable to install their own panels.

  • Support for LMI Residents: In many states, Community Solar projects guarantee that a majority of the subscribers are low-to-moderate income (LMI) customers, who are often those most impacted by the barriers to access listed above.

  • Strengthening Local Grids: By contributing renewable power locally, community solar reduces reliance on distant power sources and enhances local grid resilience.

  • Municipal Benefits: A Township can subscribe to a community solar project, thereby saving on its own electricity bills and ultimately benefiting town residents.

  • Reviving Underutilized Land: If a solar facility is sited on undervalued municipal property, such as a landfill or a brownfield, multiple other benefits are unleashed. This is where AC Power shines!


Conclusion


By breaking down barriers to solar adoption and revitalizing underutilized spaces, community solar projects provide a pathway to a cleaner future for all. At AC Power, we are proud to be part of this transformative journey, bringing clean, cost-effective energy to all, and living true to our motto: "Repurposing for a Brighter Future."


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AC Power helps resolve the unforeseen challenges of developing solar projects on brownfields. AC Power is your partner, and our team of experts is there to support each stage of your solar development journey. Our mission is to reenergize communities with solar — one brownfield at a time.

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