With the renewable energy market booming, more and more people are exploring and considering their options for going green. In the United States, solar specifically has ranked first or second in new electric capacity additions in the last six years. There are now more than 1.9 million solar installations in the US.

However, despite its growth, many Americans and businesses still do not have access to solar simply because they rent, live in multi-tenant buildings, or have roofs that are unable to host a solar system. In fact, according to a 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), only 22 to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system after adjusting for structural, shading, or ownership issues. Additionally, in a 2015 report by NREL and DOE, it was estimated that nearly 50% of consumers and businesses are unable to host PV systems. This traditional type of solar power that most of us are familiar with is referred to as rooftop or residential solar (when solar panels are directly mounted on the roof of a private residence).

Community Solar vs Rooftop Solar

Thanks to advancements in technology though, rooftop PV is no longer the only option you have for going solar. Community solar provides homeowners, renters, and businesses equal access to the environmental benefits of solar generation regardless despite the physical attributes or ownership of their home or business. It expands everyone’s access to solar energy.

So how does community solar differ from rooftop solar? According to the Solar Industry Association (SEIA), community solar refers to local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Community solar projects are an array of solar panels installed in an offsite location.  Community solar offers the benefits of going solar without having to actually install panels on your roof.

The SEIA describes the several ways that customers can participate in community solar. These include:

  • On-bill Crediting
    • This model allows residents and businesses to invest in a portion of a local solar facility and receive a credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Credits are provided as a kilowatt-hour (kWh) offsets to the customer’s usage or as monetary credits to the customer’s bill
  • Utility-Sponsored Model
    • In this model, the utility owns the array and sells or leases shares to customers
  • Non-Profit “Buy a Brick” Model
    •  In this model, donors contribute to the installation of a shared renewable owned by a charitable non-profit organization
  • Special Purpose Entity (SPE) Model
    • In this approach, individuals or companies join in a business enterprise to develop a community solar project. Using an SPE is a great way for organizations to take advantage of potential incentives and tax credits that are unavailable to utilities

Community solar is rapidly being adopted worldwide. Today, there are 43 states with at least one community solar project online, and it’s expected that the U.S. will add as much as 3 GW within the next few years. Because solar energy is 100% renewable and releases no harmful emissions after installation, it offers many environmental benefits.

Solar generation offsets more than 73 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, which is equivalent to taking 15.6 million vehicles off the road or planting 1.2 billion trees. Both community and rooftop photovoltaic systems provide a convenient, efficient, and cost-effective way for people to reduce their environmental impact.

Kiwi Energy Can Help

Kiwi Energy is proud to offer environmentally conscious energy options for our customers, including a solar option through our partnership with SunPower by Venture Capital. We offer different plans so you can pick one that suits your needs. Find a plan that works for you and sign up for Kiwi Energy today. You can also use this map to find a community solar project already near you or one that’s coming soon.