Community Solar: Now Coming to a Town Near You
Living Rhinebeck Magazine — By Jeff Irish, Our Expert Advisor on Solar Energy
The small rooftop solar system I installed on our farm in 2002 was only the tenth solar electric system in Central Hudson’s entire territory. Today there are almost 7,000. Despite that tremendous growth over the last 15 years, my company has had to tell over half the people that come to us that they don’t have a suitable roof or site and therefore cannot go solar. That is about to change.
In mid-2015, New York’s Public Service Commission issued an order permitting “Community Distributed Generation”, also known as “community solar” or “solar farms”. These larger ground-mounted solar arrays will soon be able to bring solar to everyone. Electricity generated by a community solar array goes into the utility company’s grid. Monthly credits are then applied to the utility bills of customers participating in the community array. In New York, there will be two ways for customers to participate.
Under the “Subscriber Model”, investors own the solar farm and take the state incentives and 30% federal tax credit. Customers will be able to sign up for reductions in their electric bill, typically 5 to 20%, depending on whether they commit for a single year or twenty. The customers will generally not be required to make any upfront payment, and in exchange, their savings will be modest. In some ways, this is similar to leasing an on-site rooftop solar system, which has largely fallen out of favor.
Under the “Ownership Model”, customers will purchase and own individual solar panels in the community array. They will directly benefit themselves from the state incentives and 30% federal tax credit. A solar company will operate and maintain the solar array for a small annual fee, similar to a condo association fee. Customer savings will be much higher; up to 100% of the electricity charges on their monthly electric bill. Customers who move will be able to take the monthly bill credits with them to their new home or apartment.
Community solar will soon let homeowners and renters have their electricity usage directly offset by a nearby solar array, keeping their energy dollars local. It will also help mitigate climate change and reduce our reliance on electricity created from coal, gas and nuclear generating stations. Community solar is about to open up a whole new way for solar to grow in New York State. Contact Hudson Solar at CSA@HudsonSolar.com for the latest on community solar in the Rhinebeck area.