Introduction To Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is energy that is generated by natural processes and is renewed on a regular basis. Sunlight, geothermal heat, wind, tides, water, and various forms of biomass are all examples. This energy is never depleted and is constantly replenished.

Why Renewable Energy?

In the United States, electricity generation is the main source of industrial air pollution. Coal, nuclear, and other non-renewable power facilities provide the majority of our electricity. Energy production from these resources has a significant negative impact on our environment, damaging our air, land, and water.

Renewable energy sources can be used to generate electricity with fewer negative effects on the environment. It is possible to generate electricity from renewable energy sources without emitting CO2, the primary contributor to global warming.

But, first and foremost, what exactly is renewable energy? Renewable energy comes from natural resources that regenerate themselves over time without depleting the planet’s resources. These resources also have the advantage of being plentiful, accessible in some form almost everywhere, and causing little, if any, environmental harm. Examples include solar energy, wind, and thermal energy stored in the Earth’s crust. Fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas, on the other hand, are not renewable since their quantity is finite—once they have been mined, they will no longer be available as an economically viable energy source. Natural processes provide these fuels, but they are too slow to replace them as quickly as humans utilize them, thus these sources will run out sooner or later.

People, businesses, and the environment all gain from renewable energy.

What community solar is not

Other sorts of clean energy electricity rates and incentives, such as: Community solar is related to, and often mistaken with:
  • Group Purchasing: Through discussions with a solar installation provider, such as Philadelphia’s Solarize program, a large number of households or businesses are able to acquire their own individual solar systems at bulk rates. Unlike a community solar project, where everyone benefits from a single central system, under a group purchasing program, everyone buys their own solar project.
  • Green Power Rates: Green power rates allow a utility’s customers to buy electricity generated by renewable energy sources, such as large-scale hydro, wind, and solar. Those that enroll in green power programs do so mostly to ‘do the right thing,’ rather than to save money on their electricity bills, as these solutions are often more expensive. Importantly, participation in a green power plan does not always imply the construction of new renewable power plants, as the electricity might come from current sources. The majority of community solar projects, on the other hand, are designed with the primary goal of lowering participants’ electricity bills.
  • Crowdfunding / Online Solar Investment Platforms: Some businesses have made renewable energy investment available via online platforms that allow you to invest in new solar projects. These kinds of initiatives are entirely financial investments: you don’t get any electricity from them, so they don’t help you save money. Note that while the profits from these initiatives are usually taxable (as investments), the savings from a community solar project are not.

How does community solar work?

On a high level, when you join a community solar farm, you either get access to the electricity generated by a particular number of panels in the array or you buy a certain amount of electricity, usually at a lower cost than your regular utility rate.
Solar projects and activities for the community are often presented in two formats:
  1. Ownership: Participants can buy a specific number of panels or a piece of the community solar project under this arrangement. You’ll get energy bill credits/savings from all of the power produced by the solar panels you own if you invest in a community solar project.
  2. Subscription: With this concept, members can become subscribers and pay a cheaper monthly utility payment. Rather than owning panels or a stake in the project, you simply buy electricity at a cheaper cost than you would pay if you bought it from your utility.
Community solar models based on ownership are quite similar to buying a rooftop system, with the exception that no system will be installed on your roof or land. Instead, you own a specific number of panels in the array or a specific number of kilowatts (for example, 5kW) of the overall capacity of the solar project.
You can only buy enough shares in these projects to cover your annual electricity usage, and no more. The actual production of the project will be credited to your electricity bill.

While program details vary every project, most do not involve any upfront payments and provide immediate bill savings. In this situation, joining a community solar project is similar to joining a green power program, except that instead of paying a higher price for clean electricity, community solar members often pay a cheaper price.

While program details vary every project, most do not involve any upfront payments and provide immediate bill savings. In this situation, joining a community solar project is similar to joining a green power program, except that instead of paying a higher price for clean electricity, community solar members often pay a cheaper price.

To participate in the community solar program, you may need to live a specific distance from the community solar project (i.e., inside your utility’s service area) depending on your state or utility provider. Many community solar projects also impose a limit on the amount of electricity you can obtain (i.e., no more than 120 percent of your average monthly usage).

The majority of subscription-based programs are simple to sign up for and discontinue.

Where is community solar available?

To open projects, legislative legislation on community solar is required. Although the vast majority of states in the United States have passed legislation permitting community solar projects, capacity remains concentrated in a few states. Based on Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Research Database, states where community solar option is available are mentioned below:



How does community solar work?

Financial benefits of community solar

A mechanism known as “virtual net metering” makes community solar practical (VNM). Virtual net metering regulations, like rooftop solar net metering, allow homes and businesses to get net metering credits for renewable energy projects placed at a remote location.
Virtual net metering allows you to use solar energy produced at a remote location to offset electricity you pull from the grid, similar to how net metering allows you to use solar energy produced on your roof to offset any electricity you pull from the grid when the sun isn’t shining.

Utility benefits of community solar

There are a few ways community solar benefits electric utilities in addition to helping program participants save money on electricity.
For one thing, utilities can deliberately place roofless solar gardens on the grid in places where there are fewer generators. This serves to stabilize the grid as a whole, saving the utility money and time on costly grid maintenance and repairs in the long run.
Second, community solar farms are one way for utilities to meet the criteria of any state-imposed renewable portfolio mandates. On-grid community solar counts as renewable solar energy, which is becoming more widely mandated in specified percentages every year.

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