What is Community Solar?
Community, or shared, solar is renewable energy, locally produced, for co-op consumer-members who want it. The model involves a group of people getting their electricity from a midsize solar array, a safe, affordable and convenient option for consumers who want to buy carbon-free electricity. No need to install panels on the roof, no worries about construction or maintenance. It’s a sweet spot between large, utility-scale installations and rooftop solar.
How does Community Solar work?
In most traditional community solar arrangements, the local electric provider handles the construction, operation, and maintenance of the solar installation. Consumers often participate through a monthly “subscription” and receive a bill credit based on how much energy is produced by the solar array.
How are the subscriptions sold?
Each participating co-op has developed a pricing model specific to the needs and benefits of its consumer-members and the cooperative. There is no “one size fits all” approach to pricing within the co-ops’ community solar program.
Will the subscriptions be available to all co-op members?
The answer depends on the cooperative. In some service areas, a co-op may partner with one or more local businesses and provide the entire output of the solar farm to one or two locations. Other co-ops may choose to offer Community Solar only to their residential consumer-members.
What is the completion date for the cooperatives’ solar farm network?
The timeline of events, from construction to subscription sales, varies by electric cooperative. Site permitting, local ordinances and construction schedules also will differ by service area.
Will cooperatives choose not to participate in community solar programs? If so, why?
The state’s electric cooperatives – as a whole - recognize the growing importance and impact of solar power in the utility industry. However, one of the strengths of the cooperative network is the independence and autonomy of the local cooperatives.
- One S.C. co-op has invested more than $3 million in an energy efficiency retrofit program for its consumer-members – “the easiest, most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Another S.C. co-op has a significant number of consumer-members who have installed rooftop solar systems. The market penetration of rooftop solar drives down the demand for a product like community, or shared solar.