By Nina DeSilva
In recent years, community solar has begun to open clean energy access for communities that are locked out of other forms of clean energy. This model, which was the fastest-growing form of solar energy last year, allows households to subscribe to a solar farm in their area and see savings on their electric bill.
But community solar is not yet available to every American household—and the substantial benefits of community solar could be irrelevant to you if you’re not eligible to take advantage of them.
So what are the eligibility requirements for a typical solar garden, and how can you find out if you’re eligible for community solar?
Three main criteria determine whether you can participate in community solar:
1.Most community solar gardens have credit score requirements.
Most community solar projects have minimum credit score requirements in the 650-700 range. This is because solar investors want make sure that they will see a return on funds that they dole to develop each new a project. Solar developers use credit scores as a way of giving them this assurance—even though credit scores are a highly imperfect way of predicting households’ energy bill payment behavior.
FICO credit score credentials are an eligibility factor that Solstice continually strives to challenge. We push all of our developer partners to lower their credit score requirements or to get rid of them entirely, we are currently working under a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and implement a new, more accurate and inclusive form of qualifying people for community solar, We call this new metric the EnergyScore, and our analysis of over half a million consumer records suggests that it is significantly more inclusive and more accurate than FICO scores.
2. You must live within the same service territory as your solar garden.
State laws divide the state map into different “service territories” to help clarify utilities’ responsibilities and ensure a reliable electric grid. Utilities use these service territories to set geographic boundaries for community solar projects to help ensure that the benefits of community solar stay local.
For example, the areas of New York that are under the control of NYSEG are divided into nine service territories, labeled A-I. Solar gardens are located throughout the NYSEG area, but are only accessible to residents that live in their same service territorys ( Residents of NYSEG A can only subscribe to projects also located in NYSEG A).
Unsure of where the nearest community solar offering is in relation to your home? No worries! You can get in contact with one of our solar experts to see if there are openings in your area - click on the orange box in the lower right-hand corner of your screen to get in touch with our team of experts!
3. You (Often) can’t get community solar for Businesses.
It is important to note that some states limit the type of customers that can enroll in a community solar project. In New York, for example, there are regulations set up to ensure that community solar primarily serves residential users—and businesses that are demand-metered can’t participate.
On the other hand, some states do allow for participation by even large commercial establishments. Under California law, for example, shared solar farms serving households can also generate energy for commercial and industrial clients. In Massachusetts, large commercial clients often serve as “anchor tenants” that take up 30-40% of a garden’s capacity and help developers to make it more secure for investors
What do you do now?
So, how do you know if you are eligible for a local solar garden? You could dive into the details of your state’s energy regulations and service territories…
Or, you could just reach out to our team of solar experts - and don't worry, we won't ask you to commit to anything right away, and we won’t bug you if you decide you’re not interested. We take an educational approach to our mission of spreading solar energy.
Ready to learn more? Click here to get in touch with us.
(And, yes, that’s a real person on the other end!)