What are the Benefits of Community Solar?

By Christie Young

Solar energy is taking off, and you might be wondering how - and why - to make the switch. We’ve laid out some of the benefits of community solar so you can decide for yourself.

Solar energy is taking off, and you might be wondering how - and why - to make the switch. We’ve laid out some of the benefits of community solar so you can decide for yourself.

No rooftop required

Community solar allows households to tap into a local shared solar farm (sometimes called a solar garden) which are installed in spaces such as warehouse roofs, superfund sites, capped landfills, or other unused land.

You don’t need to own your home (or rooftop) to participate - anybody with an electricity bill should be eligible, including renters, condo owners, or those with a roof unsuitable for solar. Solstice is working to bring community solar projects to as many households as possible.  

No bothersome installation

NREL estimates that 49% of American homeowners are not eligible for rooftop solar panels due to their roof’s orientation, shade, or structure. In addition, some homeowners don't want to go through the process of finding a contractor, buying the right panels, and installing them on their own roof, or they simply cannot afford the upfront investment. When accounting for the more than a third of Americans who rent their homes and those who are otherwise ineligible, roughly four out of five Americans can’t install rooftop solar.

No upfront costs

At Solstice, we work primarily with subscription-based community solar. You don’t buy the panels, but instead subscribe to the electricity produced by your allocated panels in the shared solar farm. Your allocation is determined by your historical energy usage, so your monthly electricity usage is covered by the production of your solar panels.

Cheaper utility bills

Community solar subscribers save money on their electricity bills, usually receiving a 5-15% discount. This is made possible by the plummeting price of solar technology, state and federal incentives, and pricing agreements between the solar developer and the utility.

Energy independence

Solar energy allows individual Americans to produce their own energy, and community solar brings the same benefits to communities. On a national level, this allows the US to rely less on the global energy market, protecting us from unstable energy prices and supply disruptions. This concept is called “energy resilience”, and some, like long-term Intel CEO Andrew Grove, have argued that it is an important component of our national energy security interests.

Less pollution

A direct effect of our continued reliance on fossil fuel energy is pollution: these fuels contaminate local water sources with toxic chemicals, leading to cancer and other health problems, and destroy natural landscapes and animal habitats.

Solar energy, on the other hand, produces little (if any) greenhouse gasses. Other than the fuels used to manufacture and transport the panels, solar panels produce no polluting gasses.

Supporting the local economy

The method by which fossil fuels are extracted and produced is heavily mechanized, while solar and other renewables require labor for planning and installation. Despite its relative youth, the solar industry already employs more people in electricity generation than oil, coal and natural gas combined. In 2016 alone, the wind and solar industries created 100,000 jobs right here in the USA.

Even the most vocal supporters of the fossil fuel industry can’t help but see the potential of renewable energy: President Trump recently announced $32 million in funding for small businesses across the sector. The solar industry provides good, blue-collar jobs that are spread out all over the country, supporting hundreds of thousands of American families while also building a cleaner, greener USA.

Clean energy lessens our dependence on fossil fuels

The science is clear: the CO2 emissions caused by humankind’s reliance on fossil fuels are causing our planet to warm at an accelerating rate. The consequences of this man-made climate change cannot be overstated. Between rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns, and unpredictable agricultural conditions, our way of life is increasingly threatened. The time to act is now.

Switching to solar energy (and other renewable energy sources) is one of the most important steps to reducing our carbon emissions and ensuring the health of our planet.

 

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