What Is Community Solar?

Sun rising over a community solar farm with solar panels
  • Mar 29, 2023

The benefits of solar power are clear—cleaner energy and a more sustainable electrical grid. Solar is growing so rapidly, it’s expected to be the top source of power worldwide in five years. But not everyone who wants solar energy can install rooftop panels. 

Now there's an easier way for everyone to participate: Community Solar. 

Community Solar (also called Shared Solar or Roofless Solar) is a growing way that homeowners and renters alike can receive the financial benefits of solar energy—without the hassle of upfront costs or installing your own solar panels. With Community Solar, renewable energy is more accessible than ever—allowing more communities to enjoy clean power. 

How Community Solar Works

With Community Solar, the energy generated by one large local Solar Farm (also called a Solar Project, Solar Garden, or Solar Field) is shared by multiple members—homeowners, renters, and businesses in the local community who “subscribe” as members of that solar farm. 

The electricity produced by the solar farm goes on to the local power grid. Once enrolled, Community Solar members remain with their current utility and earn solar credits on their normal bill, reducing their annual electricity costs. They receive a separate bill from CleanChoice Energy for the value of the solar credits at a discount. Solar credits are personalized to each member's home electric usage and based on the amount of energy the solar farm produces—lowering overall utility costs.

Community Solar members still use electricity exactly as they did before and enjoy the same electric reliability, with the same utility company still maintaining the wires and delivering power.

Community Solar "how it works" gif (AVIF file) (NLC file name:  1.04-400x800-CleanChoice-Energy-MAS-155351)

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What’s the Difference Between Community Solar and Rooftop Solar?

Community Solar doesn’t have the limitations of rooftop solar. If your roof is shaded, faces the wrong direction, or can’t support solar panels, you can still access some of the benefits of solar power. Plus, you don’t need to own your home—renters can also participate. 

Community Solar members receive the financial benefits of solar power, without worrying about the hassles of ownership like maintenance or upfront payments. Plus, it’s free to sign up, and you can cancel anytime with notice.

What Are the Financial Benefits of Community Solar?

Typical Community Solar members save about 5% to 10% off their annual electricity costs. For example, a typical member who pays $90 for the value of solar credits at a rate that’s a 10% discount could expect to see their utility bill reduced by about $100 for that period. Over the lifetime of the solar farm, the difference can add up to thousands of dollars in savings, filling your wallet full of sunshine.

Graphic explaining how billing and savings works with Community Solar with CleanChoice Energy

Community Solar also offers landowners and farmers the opportunity to receive additional, steady revenue by installing solar panels on their property. Learn more about hosting solar projects

What Is the Environmental Impact of Community Solar?

Community Solar members play a huge role in advancing renewable energy in the U.S. and creating a cleaner future for all. Based on the average annual electricity usage produced by a Community Solar farm, the solar energy generated would have an environmental impact equivalent to:

  • 340 trees planted; or

  • 1,732,534.26 lbs of coal not burned; or

  • 41,417 trash bags of waste recycled instead of landfilled; or

  • 2,375,062 miles not driven (by a gas-powered car)!

Supporting the production of 100% solar power locally helps reduce reliance on polluting fossil fuels. But since not everyone can get rooftop solar to help do their part, that’s why Community Solar can make an impact. To accelerate clean energy adoption towards a solar future, the Department of Energy estimates net savings of $1.7 trillion from avoided climate damages and improved air quality.

Community Solar—Taking Off in the U.S.

Community Solar is one of the fastest-growing solutions in the U.S. for people who want to support clean energy:1

  • More than 40 states in the U.S. have at least one Community Solar project, and 22 states plus Washington, D.C. have policies that support its growth.

  • Since 2015, Community Solar has grown by 3,000%—enough to power more than 600,000 homes and businesses.

  • The industry aims to save 10 million homes and businesses with solar savings by 2030, with billions of dollars in investments available from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Community Solar Membership with CleanChoice Energy

CleanChoice Energy currently offers Community Solar in Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C.

Joining Community Solar with CleanChoice Energy doesn't change your utility provider or your alternative supplier, so members still receive and pay a monthly electric bill from their utility. Their monthly bill from CleanChoice is for the solar credits they earn based on the amount of solar energy generated by their subscription. The solar credits earned are applied to their utility bill to reduce the balance. CleanChoice Energy bills our Community Solar members for the solar credits at a discount after they receive them on their electric bill. 

Interested in Signing Up for Community Solar?

Access to solar farm space is exclusive, with membership limited to qualified residents. Sign up today: secure your spot, join your local solar farm, and help save both money and the planet!

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1SEIA, NREL, Solar Futures Study | Department of Energy