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How Do Community Solar Farms Work?


Solar farms are rising since they benefit various groups, including non-profits, individuals, and businesses in a certain community. So, how do community solar farms work to realize this?

On the other hand, what are the benefits of becoming a member of such a project? What about the challenges communities face when developing and maintaining these solar farms?

Here’s a detailed discussion of how community solar farms work and their advantages and disadvantages. Check them out!

How Does a Community Solar Farm Work?

Usually, it is a non-profit, special-purpose entity or utility that starts a solar system. So, initially, it is its sole owner.

As for the special purpose entities, they are companies founded particularly to build or own a solar farm.

The main participant, in the beginning, is the owner. In collaboration with involved solar developers, the owner identifies the site most suitable for constructing that solar farm.

Once it is chosen, what follows is acquiring the necessary permits. Under such circumstances, construction can start seamlessly, taking several months.

Afterward, the owner seeks help from the community to fund that solar project. There are two major approaches when it comes to the community’s contribution towards the solar farm.

One can go for ownership or subscription. Let’s look at the two mechanisms and how they work;

Community Solar Farm Ownership

It is a model whereby participants choose a fraction of the community solar farm project. In most cases, the portion is based on the number of solar panels one decides to purchase.

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Regarding proceeds, they are usually shared depending on the solar panels one owns on that particular farm. So, the more power your solar panels produce, the more electric bill savings or credits you make.

Looking at the arrangement closely, it is as if one has rooftop solar panels far from home. Despite not being on your property or roof, you own the panels and reap all their benefits.

In other solar farms, the ownership isn’t based on the number of solar panels. On the contrary, various participants own a certain number of kilowatts from your solar farm’s capacity.

In most cases, the share you can get in this model is limited. It is usually the electricity you use monthly, which can be credited to your electricity bill or account.

Community Solar Farm Subscription

Unlike the ownership setup, you won’t own any solar panels upon subscribing to a solar farm. However, you will acquire solar power from it at a relatively low price.

The rate is better than what your utility charges for the monthly electric bill. This approach is more common than its ownership counterpart.

However, the rules of each solar farm differ from the others. Subscribers often enjoy low electric bills without incurring any upfront costs.

It is quite similar to joining a green power program. The only difference is that you enjoy low electricity costs for subscribing to a community solar farm, while a green power program will offer clean electricity upon paying a premium.

Some utility companies and states have other requirements and restrictions. For instance, you can only subscribe to a certain solar farm if you are within a particular radius of its location.

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Equally important, there is usually a limit to the amount of electricity one can receive from the solar farm. This limit is usually monthly.

If you want to subscribe, it is quite easy to become a subscriber of a certain solar farm project. Equally important, unsubscribing from a solar farm whenever you find it unnecessary is also easy.

Advantages of a Solar Farm

Consider these benefits if torn between installing a solar panel or investing in a community solar farm.

A Community Solar Farm Promotes Flexibility

If you install a solar system, what happens if you no longer find it useful? You have a few options and high chances of incurring losses, fees, and penalties.

However, that’s a different case for community solar panels when you back out. Most don’t charge fees or penalties, whereas others charge something small.

Besides the flexibility of leaving whenever you deem fit, you also have options regarding where to buy the power. You can choose the grid, the solar project, or the two, thus enhancing flexibility further.

A Community Solar Farm Lowers the Installation Costs

Since it is a community solar farm, the upfront cost necessary to handle the project is divided among its members. The share costing among various stakeholders and households reduce the amount of money needed from every individual to construct and maintain a solar farm.

There is the absorption of various costs through different channels. They include an energy company’s utility bills, virtual leases, purchase power agreements (PPAs), and co-owning neighbors.

A Community Solar Farm Provides Power to Everyone

Due to the high upfront cost of installing solar power, it has become hard for an entire community to adopt this renewable energy. After all, various members have different purchasing powers.

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However, community solar farms have changed this narrative. They give access to solar power to every member of the community the farms serve.

Disadvantages of a Solar Farm

Unfortunately, there are also various drawbacks to a solar farm. They include the following;

Unavailability in Some Areas

Some people may want a community solar farm, but it is impossible due to their areas of residence. After all, not all states support such installations.

In other instances, the state is supportive and friendly to such initiatives. Unfortunately, a community can’t enjoy the benefits due to a lack of land enough for the project.

Lack of Access to Solar Energy Incentives

As mentioned early, most community solar farms use the subscription model. Consequently, customers don’t own solar panels.

On the other hand, only the land owners where the community solar farm is can enjoy incentives. Since that’s not the case, customers can only get rebates and incentives indirectly.

However, that’s not an issue if the community solar far model is owned. In such cases, customers can get incentives and rebates directly.

Community Solar Farms Require Much Space

Lucky communities get to install their solar farms in brownfield sites and landfills. That’s a huge advantage since the land is usually unusable, to begin with.

However, some communities lack such pieces of land. Therefore, they have to use valuable land to install this project.

In most cases, taking up such space often leads to environmental losses. In worst-case scenarios, economic ones may also arise.

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