​how does community solar work?

​How does community solar work? How ​can off-site panels send you power and save you money?

​Community Solar is shattering the way people think about accessing renewable energy. Since Renovus rolled out community solar ownership for New York solar customers in 2016, we have embarked on a relentless journey of educating consumers about their choices while going solar. We've traveled to every corner of the state teaching folks, hosting events and answering questions about this new frontier in renewable energy.

Community solar is exciting, affordable and accessible to anyone who pays an electric bill. We've chatted with thousands of folks from all walks of life, and they all have the same question: How does it work?

​THE PHYSICAL STRUCTURE

​Before we dive into some of the more nuanced details of community solar, let's get the foundation out of the way, what is a community solar farm?

Solar farms are large aggregated projects where multiple homes and businesses own shares of a larger solar project. Renovus develops solar farms as small as 100kW and as large as 2.5MW. Renovus' average solar project can service about 25-50 homes in that utility area.

These solar projects are developed and built in areas with an ideal solar resource that will produce around 1200kWh per kW, or at about 93-95% of the total solar resource available in that location. Compared to some ​on-site systems,​ community solar can be 10-15% more efficient than a roof-mounted solar system, helping you get more bang for your buck.

A solar farm is developed in a location, and its solar power is aggregated on one "host meter" that helps both Renovus and the utility keep track of the farm's production. This meter is then connected to the grid, just like any power plant. You own a share of this total power production and get credit for whatever percentage of the farm you own.

​REMOTE NET METERING

We can hear you thinking..."So, off-site solar power plant. That makes sense. But how can they guarantee I'm getting the power my panels produce on that farm?".

Before we explain how this all works, we'll ask you one favor: Forget about the electron.
Short of running a dedicated wire from the farm to your doorstep, there is no way to guarantee that any given electron you are using at your home came from your solar farm. It's physically impossible. Lucky for you, that doesn't matter.

Deriving value from a solar farm is all possible because of one concept; Remote Net Metering.

Remote net metering (RNM) is an agreement between the public service commission and our utility companies that allows customers who generate their electricity from alternative energy systems, such as solar, to transfer power they do not use back into the grid in exchange for credits on their utility bills.

The amount of energy credits generated is directly associated with the amount of energy produced by any given farm. The system used to calculate these credits is called the Value of Distributed Energy Resources(VDER) Value Stack. Every farm's value stack is different, but in general, you can expect energy reimbursement at around $.08-.11/ kWh depending on your utility company and the farm's location.

This is huge for residential and commercial customers alike. Using this "digital energy" you can use a solar farm to offset your bill and zero-out your electrical expenses. With this type of metering, you also can maintain a great deal of flexibility by being able to use solar at less-than-ideal locations (think rentals, shady areas), or move and transfer credits to your new home!

​YOUR MONTHLY EXPENSES

​The bottom line is this; Community Solar is a cost-effective, flexible way to use solar power to eliminate your electricity bills. Using remote-net metering is a slightly different method of deploying solar, but when a customer cannot go solar on their property, the overall financial returns associated with owning a share of a solar farm are incredibly compelling.

Generally speaking, most of our clients choose to finance a solar purchase. The goal in these scenarios is selecting a loan program whose monthly payment is lower than your electricity bill before going solar. Renovus helps its customers test the market to find the best options available, but we've also negotiated best-in-class loan programs with financial institutions such as M&T Bank, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and Tompkins Trust Company.

When a customer finances a solar farm purchase, they often see monthly savings of 20-30% through the life of the loan, and 100% offset of electrical costs when the loan has been paid off. Our systems are guaranteed for 25 years, and most community solar clients will see savings north of $22,500 over the life of their system!

The amount of savings a solar farm owner will enjoy are entirely contingent upon the method of payment used. If you're interested in the different options for going solar, check out this blog from December 2018.

If you're interested in learning more about community solar, download our guide to community solar, or reach out to our team to schedule a conversation. We would be happy to help you gain all the information you need to educate yourself about all the options on the market for saving money with solar.


​Get an INSTANT ESTIMATE​ With our solar calculator​​​

​Get an INSTANT ESTIMATE​ With our solar calculator​​​