What Is Community Solar?

CS-IconAs a Georgia utility that services your community, you may be aware how many customers would love to go solar, but aren’t able to. Access to solar energy is in fact not a universal thing—often due to unsuitable roofs or because of renting versus owning a home or office, among other barriers.

According to a recent National Renewable Laboratory Report (NREL), about 50 percent of U.S. homes and businesses aren’t suitable to install a solar system on their properties.

View Map of Community Solar Programs Around the Country

Step in Solar CrowdSource’s Community Solar program. Our utility-based solar program makes it easy to bring a utility together with its customers who want to choose how they purchase and consume energy. Through utility community solar, your customers purchase panels of a large, central solar facility and receive an energy credit on their utility bill for the energy the panels produce. Customers get a choice that will have a huge impact on their wellbeing, the environment, and save big bucks in the process!

Solar CrowdSource’s Community Solar program offers the chance:

    • For customers to go solar but can’t for a variety of reasons.
    • For customers to share portions of a large solar facility, and receive an energy credit on every bill.
    • Real-time energy production monitoring, which aids transparency.
    • Save money—you’ll all pay a lower cost per watt because of savings derived from one central facility.

Together, we’ll open up the doors to new solar possibilities!

How It Works:

  1. Contact Us. Click on the “Create a Campaign” button below and submit the form to either set up a campaign page (with our helpful tool) or to request more information about community solar models that work in Georgia.
  2. Get Design and Development Help. Solar CrowdSource provides design and development services to help structure your community solar program, design and develop the solar facility and prepare a package for competitive bid. The utility chooses the program structure, site, materials and installation company.
  3. Run It Through Us. Manage your campaign through us, complete with landing page, database management and helpful marketing tools to make your community solar campaign a success.

For those wanting to join an existing campaign rather than create one, you can click on the “View Campaign” button below to see what’s available in your neck of the woods.

Community Solar FAQs

What is Community Solar?
A typical community solar project includes a third party solar developer who purchases and installs a large solar photovoltaic array located within the utility service area and sells the electricity to the utility through a long-term PPA agreement. Then individual solar panels (small portions of the solar facility) are sold to the utility customers and the customers receive a credit on their electric bill for the energy the panels produce. Utility customers within the utility’s service area, including residences, businesses, local governments, non-profits and faith-based organizations, can all subscribe to the sun.

Why Community Solar?
Unlike big power plants, a community solar is a distributed generation project. Distributing power production provides benefits to communities beyond local, clean and more affordable energy. It also creates jobs locally, avoids destroying delicate habitats, and bypasses the need for inefficient transmission lines, which lose power during transmission and can take many years to put in place. And it helps ensure that the benefits of renewable energy go to the people who need the power—that’s all of us.

What are the benefits of participating in Community Solar?
Purchasing all or a portion of your energy from a community solar array allows you to utilize solar power without incurring the costs associated with installing solar panels on your home or business. Because the sun is a free and abundant source of energy, community solar is also used as a hedge against future fossil fuel costs increases such as gas or coal.

What’s a Participant?
A participant is an utility customer who purchases solar panels within a community solar facility. The participant receives a credit on their electric bill for the power the panels produce.

How do I become a Participant?
See if your utility is currently running a community solar campaign here.  If you don’t see a campaign for your utility, connect with us, we will match you with others in your community and notify your utility so your wishes are heard. Interested participants will not be required to make a financial commitment until program details are released and pricing is finalized.

How many solar panels can I purchase?
The minimum number of panels will vary depending on final program details determined by your utility. The maximum number of panels is based on the electricity consumption at the participant’s premises (typically no more than 125% of annual peak demand). Your utility work with you to determine the appropriate system size for your usage and your pocketbook.

How close do I need to be to participate?
A participant must be in the same utility service area as the community solar facility.

How much will I save?
Savings will vary depending on final program details. Exact prices will be available when your utility’s program rules are complete.

How does the power I purchase get to my house?
The power provided by the community solar facility is not directly fed into the customer’s individual household, but rather goes straight into the utility’s electric grid. Instead of having it physically on your roof, a virtual method is used to calculate how much of the energy produced gets credited toward your actual energy usage. The utility will compare the customer’s energy usage with the energy production of the customer’s subscribed panels to determine how much of the usage is offset by the panel’s production.

What if a storm or hurricane damages the solar panels? Will I lose power?
Damage to the solar array will not cause you to lose power at your home or business. You’ll never have to worry about having enough energy at your home. The utility will continue to meet all of your energy needs with other resources as long as there is no damage to the electrical system feeding your home.

What if it is really cloudy and the solar panels do not generate enough electricity?
The utility will do everything they can to keep the solar panels well maintained and operational to maximize the amount of solar energy you receive from your portion of the farm. If it is cloudy, the solar panels will produce a little less than they would on a sunny day. Changes in your amount of monthly solar energy production are totally normal since the amount of sunlight changes with the seasons.

How do I pay for my panels? Each month? Each year?
You can purchase your panels at the beginning of the program or finance them and make monthly payments.  If you finance, for example, your utility bill will show the finance charge and credits for the solar output of your panels based on how many kWh were produced from your portion of the array.

What happens if I don’t purchase enough panels to cover all of my energy needs? Will the power go out at my house?
If your solar production is less than the amount you used that month, the utility will bill you for the difference at the standard electric rate. You are not at risk of losing power by using solar because you are automatically backed up by the utility’s other sources of power generation.

Is the solar kWh credit in addition to my normal electric cost?
No, the energy generated from solar panels you purchase offset your normal electricity usage. The utility will credit you for the solar kWh and any remaining normal electric consumption at your current retail rate.

What happens if the panels I purchase generate more power than I need?
If the kWh solar production is greater than the kWh you used that month, the utility purchases the excess energy at avoided cost just as if you had produced the energy from a solar array on your own building.

What if I want to purchase more panels later?
As long as the community solar facility is not sold out, additional panels may be available. If the program is sold out, your name will be added to a waiting list and you will be notified when more panels become available.

Can I sign up for the program if I live in an apartment or condo?
Yes, as long as you are a customer of the utility sponsoring the community solar program.

What if I move or sell my house?
If you move within the same utility service area, your interest in the panels will move with you. If you move outside the utility service area, you can sell your panels at any time you choose. If you sell your home, your panels can be sold separately or with your home, depending on your preference.

Who pays for the array to be built?
A solar developer pays for the array to be built and provides a way for participants to save money immediately without an up-front payment.

Who maintains the solar systems?
The solar developer (owner of the system) is responsible for operating and maintaining the array at no additional cost to the utility customers.

What about warranty and insurance?
Panels typically have a warranty of 25 years and, largely, those are expected to last much longer. A typical warranty will guarantee that, in year 25, the panels produce 85 percent of the power they produced when new. Comprehensive insurance is included in the price to cover events, such as theft, hail damage or low production by the solar panels. The insurance is carried by a special-purpose entity.

What kind of panels are used? Are they American-made?
Any kind of panels can be used in a community solar facility, including American-made and some foreign-made. Your utility will determine what kind of panels and other equipment are used.

What’s a kilowatt (kW), and what’s a kilowatt hour (kWh)?
A kilowatt is equal to 1000 watts and is a measurement of power. A small electric heater with one heating element can use 1 kilowatt, as can a microwave oven. There’s a difference between kilowatts and kilowatt-hours. A kilowatt-hour is the amount of energy equivalent to the power of 1 kilowatt running for 1 hour. If you leave a 100-watt light bulb on for 10 hours, you’ve used 1 kilowatt-hour. The average annual electricity consumption of a U.S. household is over 10,000 kilowatt-hours.