Can Community Solar Address Renewables Accessibility Gap?
Community solar offers more customers access to green energy at lower costs. Moreover, it is a fast growing sector offering businesses opportunities for sustainable growth. But how is that community solar can address the renewable energy gap? In this post, we will outline what community solar is and how it can be the driving force for greener energy at affordable prices.
What is community solar?
Traditionally, choosing greener energy comes hand in hand with premium prices. But community solar is different. By creating a guaranteed market and through the benefits of scale, community solar farms can offer prices below standard utility rates. Community solar subscribers still receive their energy through traditional means. However, through guaranteed savings credits and special rates, subscribers and investors can save money on their energy bills thanks to community solar.
Another great aspect of community solar is that anyone can be eligible for the saving. This stands in stark comparison to solar panels installed on the rooftops of individual homes. Indeed, it is estimated that somewhere between half and three-quarters of the US population actually couldn’t access rooftop solar even if they wanted to. Anyone can invest in community solar, whether you’re a big business or from a low-income household.
Community solar is also a fast growing provider of green energy. With year on year growth expected of over 1 gigawatt, community solar is expected to supply close to 3% of all of the energy consumed in the US by 2030.
How community solar addresses the renewables accessibility gap
As already alluded to, community solar can address the renewables energy gap because it is open to all, irrespective of their income or the type of home they own. Here, we outline just how community solar makes this possible:
1. Guaranteed Markets
First, community solar farms seek investment from people who want green energy. However, investors don’t have to front the cost until the community solar farm is up and running, providing energy to the grid, making it risk-free for investors whilst making it possible for community solar to access the credit they need at start-up.
By ensuring this buy-in, community solar creates a guaranteed market and contributes green energy to the national grid. This energy is then sold at a discount to investors in the specific community solar project. The rates will be set through 2 key methods.
2. Guaranteed savings
Community solar is essentially made up of a wide range of subscribers. Each subscriber gets a percentage of the energy produced for the grid based on their contribution to the community solar farm. Typically this is received in the form of guaranteed savings credits of around 10% off energy costs.
Some community farms don’t offer guaranteed savings credits. However, they can still save you money. This is because they carefully model future energy costs and set highly predictable rates, below standard utility costs. More than 43% of US households are deemed to be priced out of rooftop solar. With community solar, anyone can contribute to a greener energy system. All whilst saving themselves money on their bills.
3. Efficiency Gains
One of the main reasons community solar is able to offer better rates is down to efficiency gains due to scale. And it’s easy to see how this works in practice. Setting up a solar panel on a roof can be costly, can affect the value of the house, and come with heavy upfront fees along with ongoing maintenance costs.
By contrast, community solar farms can be operated more efficiently without the need for specific roof types, and set up in ideal locations for capturing solar energy. They are also often able to be built on land that would otherwise be generating no tax revenue. As such, they also ensure savings are shared with the community they are set up in.
Community solar is a fast-growing sector capable of providing green energy at affordable prices. Unlike previously, greener energy doesn’t come with a premium price tag. It is also available for low income houses and big business alike. This is thanks to the benefits of scale that allow it to operate far more efficiently than alternatives like rooftop solar.
Given that the costs and specifics of rooftop solar make it out of reach for over 40% of the population. It is clear how community solar can truly address the renewable energy accessibility gap.