What Is Community Solar? [2024 Guide]

Solar panels in a community solar farm
  • Apr 1, 2024

The benefits of solar power are clear—cleaner energy and a more sustainable electrical grid. Solar energy will play a key role in our fight against climate change. 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 Does Community Solar Work?

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 subscribers earn solar credits on their monthly electricity bills, which reduces their annual electricity costs. Solar credits are personalized to each member's home electric usage and based on the amount of energy the solar farm produces.

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—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. According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):

  • More than 40 states in the U.S. have at least one community solar project, and 19 states plus Washington, D.C. have policies that support its growth.

  • As of March 2024, 6.5 gigawatts of community solar have been installed in the U.S.

  • In the next five years, the U.S. community solar market will add another 6 gigawatts of total capacity!

Community Solar farm from CleanChoice Energy

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

Community solar subscriptions don’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 join a community solar farm. 

Community solar members receive the financial benefits of solar power, without worrying about the hassles of ownership like maintenance or upfront payments.

What Are the Financial Benefits of Community Solar?

Typical community solar members save about 5% to 15% 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.

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 can play a big 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.

Sun setting over a community solar farm in Massachusetts

Is Community Solar Worth It?

Community solar is a great way to support solar energy and save money. It’s an attractive option for people who want to do their part to help the planet and help advance renewable energy, but who rent their homes or don’t have rooftops that are suitable for solar panels. However, community solar certainly has its flaws. 

What Are the Downsides to Community Solar?

One of the major disadvantages to community solar is that it has limited availability. Community solar programs are not available in every state, and community solar farms each have a limited number of memberships available. Additionally, community solar subscriptions often come with long-term contracts, which can be as long as 20 years. Some people may also find the billing process for community solar to be cumbersome and confusing.

What Are Some Alternatives to Community Solar?

If you’re looking for another easy way you can make a positive impact on the environment through clean energy, look no further than CleanChoice Energy. Our two products, Clean Electricity and Clean Energy Option, offer easy ways for homeowners and renters across the country to support clean energy. Since our founding in 2012, CleanChoice customers have had the collective impact equivalent to growing more than 105 million trees!

When you choose CleanChoice Energy as your electricity supplier with Clean Electricity, we'll ensure all the energy you use is replenished on the grid from wind and solar farms in your region. Your utility company stays the same. They will still maintain your lines and provide your bill. No service calls, equipment, or installation are needed—you'll simply see a line on your electric bill that says your “Supplier” is CleanChoice Energy. There are no upfront costs, sign up fees, or cancellation penalties, which makes choosing clean energy an easy and accessible option. Plus, it only takes two minutes to sign up!

With Clean Energy Option, a monthly membership adds 1,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy to the grid, offsetting the monthly electricity use of an average American home—for just $19/month. Each month, we'll secure one Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) on your behalf, certifying 1,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy were added to the power grid. You can sign up in minutes, and you can cancel any time with no cancellation fees.

Visit our website to explore what renewable energy options are available to you.

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