Community Solar: Bringing People Together for Clean Energy

Just don’t see solar panels fitting on your roof? They can still be installed into your energy future, thanks to community solar programs such as Seattle City Light's picnic shelter project at Jefferson Park.

by Debbie Van Der Hyde
March 23rd, 2012, Sierra Club Green Home

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“Community solar is a way for multiple individuals to share in the benefits of a single solar installation,” explains a publication from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Instead of investing in a private solar energy system, people can pool their resources to develop a large-scale solar energy project for the benefit of a group or neighborhood.

Community solar projects remove common barriers to using solar as a renewable resource, including customer inertia due to the potential complexity of choosing photovoltaic panels, finding a vendor, and acquiring permits. Community solar also allows apartment and condo dwellers, as well as homeowners who live in shaded areas, to participate in domestic energy generation.

However, the biggest benefit for most people is cost savings. Private solar installations can be costly (although the price is decreasing) and community solar offers an alternative for Sierra Club Green Home readers to participate without investing a significant amount of money upfront. Instead, participants typically pay for shares into the program and qualify for net-metering savings to match.


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