Community Solar Garden Basics
A community solar garden (CSG) is a centrally-located solar PV array from which a variety of participants can own, lease, or subscribe to shares. Most commonly, electricity produced by the solar garden is credited against a participant’s bills according to the proportion of the garden they own, lease, or subscribe to. A CSG developer or a utility will own, operate, maintain, and insure the garden and be responsible for acquiring participants to pay for it.
Solar gardening works well for households or businesses that do not have appropriate rooftops or land to host a solar array as well as for those who simply do not want to host an array whether due to appearance, perceived maintenance requirements, or other factors. No maintenance or insurance is required. Transferring a garden share may be more complex for gardens than for a system owned by an individual. Ways to pay for a garden share vary widely from garden to garden, so it isn’t easy to compare this with an individual PV system. That said, gardens are perhaps more amenable to incremental, smaller investments in PV, whereas adding solar panels to an individual system requires more pre-planning. And although some newer gardens have benefited from economies of scale that individual systems can’t achieve, shares in older gardens tended to be more expensive (per watt) than individual systems.
In order to participate in a CSG, your electric utility must offer a garden option. Because your participation is tied to the utility rather than your physical rooftop, this is an option that can work for homeowners, home renters, apartment dwellers, businesses, governments, schools, non-profits, and other organizations. In some cases, multiple CSGs may be available in your utility’s service territory. Contact your electric utility to see what options exist for you.
Is a Community Solar Garden Right for you?
Community solar may be right for you if:
- You do not have an appropriate rooftop or land to host a solar array
- You simply do not want to host an array whether due to appearance, perceived maintenance requirements, or other factors
- You rent your home or business but plan to stay within your utility’s service territory even if you move
- You are only prepared to make a small investment in solar PV