Community Solar - Explained
Community solar represents the next era in electricity generation and purchasing. After being recently approved in New York, this new program is gaining popularity across the country as a new option for solar consumers! Community solar allows individuals across a community to opt-in and buy energy generated from one central solar system at a reduced cost.
A community solar project is a group of solar panels installed on a roof, carport or ground mount that generates energy for multiple “subscribers.”
In New York State, any electric customer in the same utility territory as the solar plant can subscribe, pay for the solar output and in return get credits on their electric bills. Each project offers a virtual connection to a physical solar power plant that can offset up to 99% of your electric bill with predictable rates and terms.
Key Roles + Definitions:
Host Site: Any area that can host a solar power system 500 kilowatts or larger, requiring approximately 50,000 square feet for roof mount, and about 2 acres of land or parking lot area. Smaller systems are possible for specific types of projects and subscribers (i.e. church or synagogue).
Subscriber: Any electricity customer that voluntarily purchases solar output from a host site solar generation plant in the same utility territory.
Developer: A person or company that sells a solar power plant to a host site.
Financier: Debt and or equity investors used to Engineer, Procure and Construct (EPC) the solar power plant.
EPC: Solar project Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC), encompassing all the tasks required to build and commission a solar power plant.
Project Development Team: Developer, Financier and EPC team required to deliver a turn-key solar plant at any site.
Net Metering: Net metering is an electric utility billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home's rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home's electricity use exceeds the system's output. Customers are only billed for their "net" energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.
Virtual Net Metering: The same function as net metering, but occurs virtually, not requiring on-site power generation. However, the debit and credit system work identically.