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Community Solar Gardens – Here Comes the Sun!

April 04, 2018

Now that spring is upon us, there is another type of garden to consider.  Often referred to as “community solar gardens” or “community solar farms”, community solar projects are renewable energy plants whose electricity is shared by more than one household, and provide the opportunity for you to go green in the garden, even if your thumb is not.

How does a community solar garden work?

Community solar projects can be owned by the members of the community they serve, or by a third party, including the utility or a charitable non-profit organization, and allow participants to benefit from the solar farm without having to install solar panels on their home or property.  Members share the electricity generated, at a cost which is typically less than the price they would pay their utility.

Can I purchase the electricity from the community solar garden without buying into the project?

Community solar project models vary according to the motives of the communities.  The two most generalized avenues of participation are:

  • Ownership: Participants own a section of panels or shares which allows them to benefit from all power produced by their share.
  • Subscription: Participants can become subscribers and pay a potentially lower price for electricity generated from the solar farm without owning the panels.

What is not a community solar project?

  • Group Purchasing: Group purchasing offers the residents in a specific area the opportunity to purchase their own solar panels at a group or bulk rate through a solar installation company, which doesn’t result in a community project with shared benefits.
  • Green Tariffs: An agreement allowing the customers of a utility to purchase electricity sources from a renewable energy generation wind or solar plant, typically at a premium rate, and not providing the community with shared benefits.
  • Online Investment Platforms: Buying in on a new solar power system installation through an online investment platform where the power generated by the farm does not impact the participant’s electricity bill or include shared benefits for the community.

How can I find out more about community solar projects?

Our resource links can be found here:

US Department of Energy’s Guide to Community Shared Solar:  Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development

Interstate Renewable Energy Council –  Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs

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