Community Solar or Rooftop Solar

Are you roof-impaired? Sometimes installing a solar panel system on your own rooftop isn’t possible. You might have significant shading or your roof may face the wrong direction. In this case, community solar may be a great option. California is one of several states creating policies that encourage community solar, also referred to as solar gardens, such as virtual net metering (VNM). This is similar to net metering for individual households in that you are rewarded credits on your bill for solar produced by the community solar projects you are part of.

As with rooftop solar, community solar is either ownership-based or subscription-based. In an ownership-based system, members own an amount in proportion to their annual energy usage. This is very similar to owning your own rooftop solar panel system. The trick with community solar ownership is that the development, organization and taxes can get complicated depending on the structure and specific situation.

The other option for community solar is a subscription-based setup. This means that as a participant you are essentially just receiving discounted energy rates but don’t own any portion of the system. It’s similar to leasing a rooftop solar panels system in that respect. No tax incentives are available when subscribing but it is less complicated usually.

Benefits of Community Solar:

  • Perfect for residents that are unable to place a solar panel system on their roof
  • Reduced energy rates
  • Qualify for some state and local incentive programs
  • Facilitates a greater amount of clean energy than a single residence solar panel system

Drawbacks of Community Solar:

  • Can be complicated to organize
  • Not always available or possible in your area
  • Doesn’t increase your property value like an owned rooftop solar panel system

If you are interested in going solar but have been told your roof isn’t a great candidate then community solar may be a possibility. Check to see if their are any programs in your area that are open to new participants.