Choosing Community Solar: What Are Your Options?

​Choosing Community Solar: What are Your options?

You've heard about community solar.

You've gotten the letters, seen the advertisements, maybe even had a friend or colleague who has gone solar with a community solar farm. Solar is everywhere these days, but are the savings as good as people say?

First things first, let's get this out of the way.

No matter what way you decide to go solar, you will save money. 

The real question is not will I save money with solar; the real question is; How much money will I save with solar.

That is why we're here today, to answer the question: If I'm looking to save money using community solar, what's the best option on the market?

When you strip away all the jargon, choosing how to go solar is a lot like deciding how to handle personal transportation. You can opt for not owning anything, and use a subscription service (think bus services and ride-sharing apps), you can lease the equipment and use it however you please, or you can buy it outright. Unlike figuring out how you're going to get to work every day, choosing how to go solar can save you money (tons of it!).

Let's start with subscription.....

Option 3: Solar Subscriptions

Solar subscription services have exploded in New York State, and much of that growth can be attributed to a handful of out-of-state developers with deep pockets building what are called utility-scale farms. They offer customers 10% off their energy bill in exchange for purchasing power directly from their farm rather than from the utility company.

There are a few pros to subscription services. For one, they cost you nothing up front, and you save money on your power. For folks with little to no capital to invest in solar, a subscription is a viable option. Unfortunately, the benefits stop there.

Companies will offer customers 10% off in the first year, but that number can drop as low as 2% off in subsequent years. Additionally, many of these companies have hefty cancellation fees, meaning that you might have to be a subscriber for 5+ years before you have saved enough on your bills to offset the $250+ cancellation fees.

If you believe in solar, but can't stomach any level of investment, try Spring: a subscription service offered by some of Renovus' partners.

​wait... what is community solar?

​Check out our free eBook and find out!

Option 2: Solar leases

Solar leases, also known as power purchase agreements are common in many areas of the country where utility rates are high. The mechanics of a solar lease are pretty simple, a company builds the solar system and leases you a certain amount of panels. Those systems produce power that funnels into the grid. You then pay a certain amount for that same power, typically 10-15% less than your old electricity bill.

While this system works well for many homeowners, it's just not economical for much of New York State. When utility rates are below the state average, leases are uniformly more expensive than actually paying for the power, making them non-viable.​

Leases are common in Downstate NY and Long Island where electricity costs .18-.21 per kWh. North of Orange County, power often averages .11-.14 per kWh. The 15% savings a customer would have seen in Westchester is still 5-15% more expensive than a customer is paying for power anywhere in Central and Northern NY.

So... If leasing community solar isn't a great option what do we have left. A good old-fashioned purchase, that's what!

Option 1: Solar ​Purchase

Purchasing solar might seem intimidating, but the reality is a purchase of solar is by far the smartest way to invest in a community solar system. When you purchase a solar system, you have access to many tax credits and incentives that immediately reduce the system cost by 60%. In addition to only having to pay 40% of the sticker price, when you purchase a solar system you can offset 100% of your electrical expenses.

When it comes to purchasing solar, you have two options; Cash and

Everyone understands a cash purchase, so there's not much to explain here.

One thing that most folks don't understand is how a cash purchase can make you money the next year. When you buy a solar system in cash, you immediately get access to Federal and NYS tax incentives the following year. You'd pay for the system year one, enjoy free power, and in tax season the coming year, you could get a tax refund of $10,000 or more than immediately pays back 60% of the cash you paid for the system.

Financing is also pretty standard but begs some explanation.

Ideally, a customer investing in a community solar system will get a solar loan with a monthly payment below what they used to pay for power. When you work with Renovus, you only need to worry about a loan on the non-tax credit, 40% portion of the loan, Renovus works with the bank to handle the rest. When you finance that 40% of the project, typically customers see a loan payment 20-30% less than their old electricity bill. As soon as that loan is paid off, that customer owns all the power from that solar farm, offsetting 100% of their energy costs.

​Comparative value of community solar ownership vs subscription - December 2018

​So, what way of going solar is right for you?

Let our team help you answer that question with a free analysis of your energy usage. We'll show you what method of going solar makes the most sense given your needs, and you'll be going green and saving green before you know it! 

thinking about solar in 2019? Get educated.

If you're a New York solar customer, you can't afford to head into the market blind.

Our first-ever New York Solar guide will walk you through everything you need to know when exploring solar in 2019.

In addition to valuable information about going solar, you will learn:

  • Options for going solar in New York State
  • Ways to subscribe to, lease or purchase solar systems
  • All the incentives available to you as a customer
  • Important trends to be on the lookout for as you shop around.
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