An increasingly popular way to reduce energy costs is called community solar. This simply means having your utility deliver your electricity from a solar farm rather than, say, a coal power plant. Subscriber numbers are hard to find, but our conservative estimate is over 200,000 homes and businesses are already saving with community solar.
Community solar is popular for three main reasons. First, savings on energy costs are guaranteed by state law. Companies that sell community solar often advertise 10% savings, but actual energy bill savings are more like 8%. Second, participation is easy, requiring only online paperwork that takes 10-15 minutes to complete. Third, community solar supports clean energy. Cheaper and cleaner energy that’s easy to get–who wouldn’t want that?
Actually, there are several concerns with community solar. First, the time between signing up and seeing savings on your bill can be many months, sometimes over a year. If there’s a line, you have to get in it. Second, billing is more complicated. Your utility still sends you a (much smaller) bill, then your community solar company bills you the rest separately. While the two together are usually less than the utility bill would be, it’s hard to be sure. Third, community solar prices rise along with utility power prices. So your overall savings will be significantly less than, say, owning rooftop solar, where you lock in a low price for 25-30 years.
Another problem is that community solar rules vary a lot by state. While 23 states have community solar laws, a much smaller number have well-functioning programs. Also, some states have better community solar programs for small businesses and some for residential. (Community solar is rarely a good solution for energy bills over $2500/month.) Based on Sustaine’s energy experience, here are the best states for community solar.
Overall, community solar is an easy way to save at your home or small business, plus get cleaner energy, so it’s increasingly popular. It does have some drawbacks. To see if community solar is the best fit for you, visit Sustaine’s online energy expert. It’s fast, free and simple.