How Relevant is a Solar Community Today?
A solar community, which is sometimes called a solar garden or shared renewable energy plant, is a solar power plant whose aggregate energy is shared by more than a single home. The main purpose of a solar community is to give the members of the community an opportunity to reap the benefits of solar power where they would normally not be able to because of infrastructure difficulties or not wanting to install their own solar infrastructure. It's also a great initiative to get members of a community to use solar energy where they would normally not be able to because of not owning their own property to install their own system. The members of a solar community can reap the benefits of solar energy which costs less than the price they would pay their utility company normally.
Solar communities typically operate in 2 formats:
- Ownership - Members can in a sense become shareholders by owning a portion of the panels. They get to use all of the power produced by their 'investment' or share of the solar panels. The members are only permitted to own a share which meets their annual electricity usage.
- Subscription - In this format, the panels are owned by someone else like a company or an external being. The community members rent or subscribe to the solar farm and receive electricity at a lower price. This module works well in communities that aren't well off which would let them pay less for clean energy without the premium installation fees. The model is put to great effect when the cost of the panels and installation is high but the benefits are substantial. It allows a smooth entry and exit from the scheme.
The federal and state government incentivize the development of plants for solar communities by offering them tax credits. Tax credits make the finance of the development of solar communities an attractive option for companies that do not pay enough tax to benefit from a tax credit. It's a win-win for everyone as the companies earn tax breaks by installing the expensive infrastructure and communities around the United States receive access to cheap, affordable clean energy. In a few cases, the participants of the solar community can claim tax credits themselves.
- A solar community project avoids trees, roof size, configuration limitations and other factors which may reduce the power output of a solar panel installed onto the participant's house.
- Building codes, zoning restrictions, aesthetic and homeowner association rules are avoided.
- Homeowners aren't required to possess the technical skills to install and maintain the panels.
- Renters who normally wouldn't be able to benefit because of the cost of entry benefit immensely from solar communities.