What's the Difference Between Community Solar and Rooftop Solar?

What’s the Difference Between Community Solar and Rooftop Solar?


Once you have decided to access the benefits of solar energy there are two options that may be available to you. One option is to physically install solar panels directly on the rooftop of your home or business. The second option is to subscribe to a community solar farm which is an off-site facility that produces electricity and grants participants credit on their utility bills. Whichever method you choose there are several factors to consider.

Are Solar Panels For You?

Solar panels are sun-collecting units that allow photons from the sun’s rays to break electrons free from atoms inside photovoltaic cells. There are many cells that make up each panel and they work together to generate electricity. Solar panels are typically installed on sunny rooftops and can be purchased outright or leased through third-party providers. Regardless of your choice, it is important to size your system correctly to receive maximum benefits. The electricity produced from solar panels will first feed the energy needs of your home or office. Any excess electricity is typically fed into the grid or collected and stored in battery banks to use later. If the solar panels cannot produce sufficient electricity to supply your home or business, what is needed will be drawn from the grid.

There are financial gains to be realized when choosing solar energy. Since the home or business owner is producing their own energy supply, they will have to purchase less from their local utility company and, in states where solar is priced lower than the utility, they will see a reduction on their monthly bill. Net metering offers a further financial opportunity if it is available from your utility. During the sunny periods when the solar panels are generating more energy than you are consuming, net metering allows solar customers to receive credits for the excess electricity, which can offset energy used at night or other periods when you use more energy than the system is generating. Additionally, solar customers may enjoy significant rebates and financial incentives from the federal and state governments as well as the utility companies. 

Are You Eligible?

Although most people recognize the benefits of participating in green energy programs, not everyone is eligible for rooftop solar panels. Those who rent, live in multi-family housing, have buildings that won’t support panels, or those who have tall trees on their property may not be a good fit to install their own solar panels. Also, the cost of purchasing and installing panels may extend beyond a family’s budget and prohibit their purchase. 

Will There Be Enough Energy?

Solar panels harness the power of the sun and convert it into usable electricity. However, there is not a continuous flow of electricity being produced and because panels do not have the capacity to store excess energy it will not be available at all times. Using a battery bank is a solution for this problem. Battery banks can store energy that can be used at night or for times when there is no electricity being produced. The use of battery banks is popular but this added equipment increases installation costs may prohibit some families from participating.

Community Solar to the Rescue

For families and businesses that are unable to select rooftop panels as their clean energy source, there is another option known as community solar. Community solar uses solar panels too but they are installed off-site away from the customer’s home or business. Usually, they are built on large sunny pieces of property and all who participate enjoy the benefits the community solar project generates. By subscribing for portions of the solar facility’s output, customers receive credit on their monthly utility bill for their subscription. In areas where subscriptions cost less than the bill credits customers receive, these subscriptions save customers money on their utility bills. Subscriptions are available in many states at a 5%, 10% or 15% discount. On top of the potential financial benefits, the environmental benefits are great.  Community solar allows a large number of people to contribute to the development of new distributed solar facilities, reducing reliance on dirty fossil fuels while improving the quality of our air and environment.

Whether you choose to install your own panels or subscribe to community solar, be assured that selecting solar power will have lasting effects for generations to come. Solar energy production boosts energy independence in the U.S., creates local jobs through the design, development, and maintenance of solar arrays, offsets the need for carbon-emitting fossil fuel generation that damages the environment, and the sun provides a free and endless source of fuel to generate electricity. 

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Brian A.

Brian A.

Brian is an Energy Advisor at EnergyPricing.com


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