What is Community Solar?

Author: Tyler Vazquez

Editors: Simran Gohel and Anand Soma

Artist: Athena Mo

You´ve heard of it: climate change. You've likely seen the statistics as well; 80 percent of our world's energy needs are met through fossil fuel. This seems scary, right? Well, yes. But does it have to be?

Not necessarily. There are a few options left. Some may include the installation of wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, or even solar panels. The latter option is quite common, especially in upper-class neighborhoods installed by environmentally-conscious citizens. If the other above practices are unavailable due to geographic location, financial inaccessibility, or lack of interest, solar panel installation should be the exception, right?

Unfortunately, not necessarily. Solar power is extremely costly at an average of $11,144 to install solar panels. It also has other issues. If someone is moving soon, the size of their roof and any shady areas on their roof can prevent them from utilizing the benefits of solar energy.

But there is a way to use solar energy without installing solar panels for a home or apartment and save money while doing it. It's called community solar, and it works with a couple of steps. First, a contractor develops a solar farm, which is essentially a large area of solar panels installed on a rooftop or field (perhaps you've seen a few on the highway-a photo can be seen below). Then, a utility company will take the energy produced from this solar farm and transmit it to every house using said energy that pays for their energy bills through said utility. Complicated? It can be a bit confusing. Several sources have been attached, including some I´ve used for my internship with Common Energy, a company focused specifically on subscribing homeowners and renters to the solar projects.

Community solar eliminates the installation price of solar panels. In certain states, you can save money by taking advantage of community solar. Certain companies (such as Common Energy) provide ¨credits¨ to the subscribers of these panels, allowing them to save money on their energy bill while also catalyzing the mitigation of climate change. This prevents the huge number of carbon dioxide emissions that would have otherwise entered the atmosphere, thus limiting the effects of climate change (such as the greenhouse effect).

So, you may be asking, why haven't I heard about this? Well, because many of these programs are not funded by the state or country in question. The United States, for example, isn't widely invested in. This is because fossil fuel generation is much more profitable. If there is a lack of investment and advertisement, then there is a lack of knowledge about the projects (or at least, what they do specifically). Therefore, many of these solar farms are wasted, and the developers back out of further projects.

What is the solution? If you haven't heard about community solar before, now is your time to do your research. Even after a solar farm is full of eager subscribers looking to make a difference, more can and will be developed should interest grow. So, spread the word! Investors are more likely to put their own money into these projects if they know it will benefit families in their community. Until then, look into some of the resources in the citations. I promise they are quite interesting. Look into helping your environment, even if it's just a little bit.

Citation

“About – Illinois Shines Program.” Illinois Shines, illinoisshines.com/about. Accessed 20 Aug.

2020.

“Common Energy | Clean Energy For Everyone.” Common Energy, www.commonenergy.us. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.

“Community Solar for Your Home.” NYSERDA, www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-

Programs/Programs/NY-Sun/Solar-for-Your-Home/Community

Solar#:%7E:text=What%20Is%20Community%20Solar,credits%20toward%20their%20elc

tricity%20bills. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.

Crees, Alex. “Best, Worst Ranked States for Solar Growth | Choose Energy.” Choose Energy,

2017, www.chooseenergy.com/news/article/best-and-worst-ranked-states-for-solar-

industry-growth.

Denchak, Melissa. “Fossil Fuels: The Dirty Facts.” NRDC, www.nrdc.org/stories/fossil-fuels-

dirty-facts. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.

Freethink Team. “Three Reasons We Don’t Have More Nuclear Power in the U.S.” Freethink,

7 Apr. 2020, www.freethink.com/articles/three-reasons-dont-nuclear-power-u- s#:%7E:text=2)%20Fossil%20fuels%20are%20cheap,it%20also%20takes%20a%20while.

“How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in the U.S. in 2020?” EnergySage,

news.energysage.com/how-much-does-the-average-solar-panel-installation-cost-in-the-

us/#:~:text=What%20range%20of%20costs%20should,ranges%20from%20%242.51%20to

%20%243.31. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.

“Should I Get Solar Power? Here’s 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Install Solar Panels.”

Solaray Energy, solaray.com.au/10-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-buy-solar-

power/#:%7E:text=The%20primary%20benefit%20of%20solar,you%20around%20%2410

0%20 per%20quarter. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.

“Solar in the Community – Citizens Utility Board.” Citizens Utility Board, www.citizensutilityboard.org/solar-in-the-community/#1587673577145-670b6001-4a22. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.

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