Community Shared Solar is solar energy which is available to community members at large - and, finally, it is available to almost anyone in New York State. For the first time ever, there really is a way to go solar for anyone who pays an electric bill, regardless of whether you own a home, have money to buy solar panels, or live in a field or forest. In the section below, you will find more information on community solar in general including the two main types of community solar that are currently available in New York State.
Community solar hasn't always been an option in New York State - up until the end of 2015, residents who wanted to go solar only had the option of having solar on their house or in their yard. Renters and those who lived in unsuitable areas due to shade had few viable solar options.
This all changed with a decision in New York State to change how net-metering worked to allow residents to take advantage of offsite solar. Suddenly, solar energy didn't necessarily need to be produced on your site, or even in your neighborhood. As long as you were connected to the same utility, you were set for solar! Since 2018, the state has made it even easier to participate in community solar: now you are only required to be within the same utility as the community solar farm that you would like to participate in.
Since that first decision to change net metering, companies have been looking at how to make community solar work and they've basically settled on two models: Purchase Models - where the resident owns the solar panels at an off-site location, and Subscription Models - where residents don't own the solar panels but are able to subscribe to a solar farm and get an appropriate percentage of the electricity it produces. Below, we include more information on both of these types of Community Solar.
Under the Purchase Model of community solar, a resident will choose to buy and own solar panels on a solar farm that is located in the same utility. The resident will then receive a credit on their utility bill for every kilowatt-hour of solar that their panels produce off-site without having to install any equipment at their current residence.
In the purchase model, residents will have to buy or finance the panels from a solar developer and will likely pay a monthly maintenance/insurance fee - however, their utility bill will be much diminished! Once the panels are paid off, they will just pay the utility's basic service charge (about $15/mo).
Through Subscription Models of community solar, residents never have to own a solar panel in order to receive benefits. Instead, they subscribe to a solar farm that uses the same utility as they do. From there, the developer will allocate a certain percentage of the solar farm's production to cover their energy needs and the resident will see this energy reflected in their utility bill.
Residents who go the subscription route will avoid the upfront costs of community solar but will have to pay a monthly bill to both the utility, for the basic line charge (again, about $15/mo), as well as to the farm they subscribe from for their electricity usage (often at a discount from regular utility rates!).
Solar for All is a NYSERDA program that brings community solar to income-eligible members of the community. It's essentially a subscription model that is subsidized so that subscribers can save up to $180 annually with no money down. (The current income guidelines for Solar for All are set at 60% of the state median income. For a family of 4, that's $4,797/month or $57,564 annually.) You may be eligible if you
To Find a Community Solar Project near you, click here.
For Our Guide To Community Solar, click here.
Carly Summers, Ph.D.
Agriculture Issue Leader
Last updated July 12, 2021