If available in their area, customers may purchase solar energy through a community-based solar project. Community solar is the fastest growing segment of today’s solar market.
Community solar can be a viable alternative to customer-owned solar power systems if a customer is unable, for any of a variety of reasons, to install a self-owned power generating system.
It is estimated that less than 25 percent of customers’ roofs are suitable for solar panel installation, either because of unfavorable property attributes, or because the customer does not own the home he or she is living in. High costs can also deter customers from installing a solar panel system they would own by themselves. Because of these factors, many electric customers interested in solar power are not able to participate in customer-owned solar power generation.
The most popular solution to this problem is commonly called “community” solar power, with remotely located solar panels serving groups of participants. These community solar power programs offer customers flexibility of scale and financing. The most customer friendly programs allow multiple methods of participation.
Community Solar Participation
For customers who choose to participate in community solar, there are primarily four alternatives:
- Purchase energy – when customers buy kilowatt-hour blocks of energy applied to their regular monthly electric bill. Contracts are typically for a fixed number of kilowatt-hours over a set term at a specified cost.
- Purchase panels – when customers actually purchase one or more panels of a larger community solar power installation.
- Lease panels – when, instead of individual ownership, customers lease either one or several panels. Purchase/lease contract options usually range from eight to 20 years. Contracts are often transferable to another qualifying customer. NPPD will soon be offering a community solar leasing program called SunWise.
Learn more about SunWise community solar
- Invest in project – considered the most complicated of the four community solar power options, when customers are actual part owners of the whole community solar power project and therefore responsible for financial risks and legal requirements of the project.
Customers who either purchase or lease panels in a community solar power project receive, in proportion to their participation, the actual kilowatt-hour generation of the community solar power installation, in the form of a credit to their electric bills for the life of the system. The energy generated by the community solar power installation is often “virtually” net metered against participants’ individual accounts. Virtual net metering is when the power generation system is remotely located from the customer’s location and, though not behind the customer’s meter, the energy generated by the community solar power system (proportionally) is credited to the customer’s account.
NPPD is currently evaluating various community solar models to develop customer participation options. To find out if community solar is available in your area, contact your local city representatives.