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Participating In A Community Solar Garden   arrow

Community Solar Garden Participation

Because community solar gardens (CSGs) are relatively new, models for participation are evolving rapidly. That said, here are some common ways to pay for participation:

  • Purchase panels: purchase a certain number of panels in the garden to offset all or a portion of your electricity use. You or a lender can provide financing for this. In some cases the garden developer will take any tax credit available, while in other cases you may be eligible for a tax credit. Some uncertainty exists as to whether individuals are able to claim a tax credit on community solar garden panels.
  • Lease panels: lease a certain number of panels in the garden to offset all or a portion of your electricity use. With this option, you may be susceptible to annual rate increases. Garden projects typically list the duration of a lease when signing up.
  • Subscribe or pay-as-you-go: pay for every kilowatt-hour generated by your share of the panels. The price per kWh is often set at or below current retail electricity rates in order to guarantee savings from Day 1, although rates may be susceptible to annual increases. The terms of these arrangements can vary, although many offer opt-outs at any time.

In exchange for purchasing, leasing, or subscribing to a CSG, participants get either a credit on their electric bill or a payment from the utility/CSG developer. Credits or payments are often equal to the retail rate of electricity, but in some cases may be below or above retail.

Determining the Correct Share Size

To determine the size of a share you’ll need, you can use a rule of thumb. A good rule-of-thumb for Colorado is that one kilowatt (kW) of solar panels can generate 1,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. You can divide the total number of kWh you use in a year by 1,500 to estimate your share in kilowatts (kW). Put another way, a new 315-watt panel would generate 473 kWh per year. So you can also divide your annual kWh by 473 to estimate the number of panels you’d need. Remember that you do not need to offset 100% of your electricity use with a CSG share – starting with a 25%, 50%, or 75% offset is fine too, as long as the size of your desired share meets the minimum required by the CSG. For a typical home that uses 8,000 kWh per year, 5.3 kW (or (17) 315W panels) would be needed to offset 100% of that home’s use.

Transferring A Share

If you move, options exist. If you move within the same utility service territory you can (and sometimes must) keep your shares. If you move outside of your utility service territory, you are responsible for selling (or donating) your shares privately. In some cases, you may be able to utilize a CSG waiting list to facilitate the sale. Garden shares that are part of a subscription model may not be transferable, but in these cases the participating electric utility will find a new subscriber to take your place.

Last updated: May 9, 2019 at 17:01 pm