Community solar is a way for people who can’t put solar on their own roofs to still take advantage of its benefits. Whether they can’t afford to install their own panels, have too much shade on their roof, or don’t even own a home, community solar is another way to participate in green energy.
Community solar – also called “shared solar” or “solar gardens” – is a kind of development in which consumers can subscribe to a large solar installation in their area and receive credits on their monthly utility bills for their share of the solar electricity produced.
The large majority of community solar installations are in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York. After substantial growth in community solar in 2022, New York now is the national leader, thanks to initiatives by the state government and the nonprofit sector. Some programs focus on giving low-income households access to solar. As of last fall, New York had over 728 community solar projects online.
One should understand that electrons are indistinguishable. The power generated by a community solar installation is not piped directly to subscribers’ homes. It just goes into the grid. Subscribers get credit for their share of the power, but that is essentially a matter of bookkeeping, not physics.
The federal government now has $7 billion that can be used for community solar as part of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund within the Inflation Reduction Act enacted last August. The EPA plans to award up to 60 grants to assist projects deploying residential and community solar. Research firm Wood Mackenzie forecasts the community solar market will double by 2027.
Photo, posted November 18, 2008, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr.