Community Solar vs. Rooftop Solar: Understanding the Differences
Updated: Mar 27
Solar power is becoming an increasingly popular way to generate electricity, with the use of solar panels on rooftops being a common sight in many communities. However, rooftop solar isn't the only way to harness the power of the sun. Another option is community solar, which allows multiple households to share the benefits of a single, off-site solar installation. In this article, we'll take a look at the differences between rooftop solar and community solar, and the benefits and drawbacks of each to help you make an informed decision on which solar solution to pursue in your unique situation.
Left: Rooftop Solar - Right: Community Solar
What is Community Solar?
Community solar is a solar power system that is installed in a central location, such as a field or parking lot, and is shared by multiple households, renters or businesses. Each participant in the community solar program receives a share of the energy produced by the system and commits to purchasing the solar energy at a discount, resulting in regular electricity savings. The energy produced by the community solar garden is typically credited to each participant's electricity bill.
Benefits of Community Solar
Some of the benefits of community solar include:
Increased access to renewable energy: Community solar allows people who may not be able to install solar panels on their own property to still access clean, renewable energy. Most solar developers allow residents to join their community solar at no upfront cost which in return increases the access to support clean energy.
Cost savings: By subscribing to a community solar garden, participants are receiving a share of discounted solar credits on their electric bill, which typically lowers their monthly electricity payment. Savings can vary by utility provider and solar developer, but often times subscribers can expect a 10-20% discount on solar credits.
Flexible subscription options: Community solar programs may offer a range of cancellation options. Most developers understand that participants may move out of their homes or apartments so it's common that these participants have the option to cancel their subscription at no cost.
Reduced environmental impact: Community solar can help to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with traditional electricity generation.
Improved energy resilience: By diversifying our energy sources, community solar can help to improve energy resilience and reduce the risk of power outages during extreme weather events.
Peace of mind: With community solar, participants aren't required to do manage or maintain the solar garden. This responsibility is on the solar developer, so subscribers can enjoy peace of mind throughout the project's lifetime.
Increased community engagement: Community solar programs can help to build a sense of community around renewable energy, bringing people together to work towards a common goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
Overall, community solar offers a range of benefits to individuals, communities, and the environment, and can be an effective way to increase access to renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint.
Drawbacks of Community Solar
While community solar offers several benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:
Limited availability: Community solar programs may not be available in all areas or may have limited capacity, which could limit participation.
Long-term commitment: Some community solar programs may require participants to sign long-term contracts, which may come with early termination fees if cancelling without proper notice.
Long development wait-times: Because community solar is relatively new to the public, it can take a bit of time to not only develop and construct a solar garden, but for utilities to get projects connected to the grid. Wait times to start receiving your credits can vary, but it's something to consider when subscribing.
Uncertainty about energy output: The amount of energy generated by a community solar system can vary depending on weather conditions and other factors, which could impact the amount of energy available to participants.
Potential for conflicts: In some cases, community solar programs could lead to conflicts between participants over issues such as ownership, access to energy, or maintenance responsibilities.
Overall, while community solar offers many benefits, it's important to carefully consider the potential drawbacks before deciding to participate, and to do your research to find a program that meets your needs.
What is Rooftop Solar?
Rooftop solar refers to the installation of solar panels on the roof of a home or building. These solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity, which can be used to power appliances and lighting. Rooftop solar is typically installed on a residential or commercial property, and the owner of the property owns the solar system and benefits from the energy produced.
Benefits of Rooftop Solar
Rooftop solar panels offer numerous benefits, including:
Cost savings: Rooftop solar panels can help reduce or even eliminate your monthly electricity bills, which can add up to significant cost savings over time.
Environmental benefits: By using solar power, you reduce your reliance on fossil fuels, which helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with traditional electricity generation.
Energy independence: Solar panels allow you to generate your own electricity, providing a measure of independence from traditional electricity providers and their pricing policies.
Increased home value: Homes with solar panels installed have been shown to have a higher resale value, as buyers are often willing to pay more for a home with lower utility bills.
Reduced grid strain: By generating your own electricity, you help to reduce the load on the power grid, which can help to prevent brownouts and blackouts during periods of high demand.
Durability: Solar panels are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, making them a durable and long-lasting investment for your home.
Overall, rooftop solar panels offer a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to power your home, while also providing a range of other benefits.
Drawbacks of Rooftop Solar
While rooftop solar panels offer many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider, including:
High upfront costs: The initial cost of purchasing and installing solar panels can be significant, and it may take several years to recoup these costs through energy savings.
Weather dependence: The amount of energy generated by solar panels can vary depending on weather conditions, with less energy produced on cloudy days or during periods of low sunlight.
Space limitations: Rooftop solar panels require a certain amount of space to be installed, and some homes may not have enough suitable roof area to accommodate a large enough solar system to meet their energy needs.
Maintenance requirements: While solar panels require relatively little maintenance, they do require periodic cleaning and inspection to ensure that they are functioning properly.
Potential aesthetic impact: Some homeowners may find the look of solar panels on their roof to be unappealing, which could potentially impact the resale value of their home.
Permitting and regulatory requirements: Depending on where you live, there may be a range of local regulations and permitting requirements that need to be followed in order to install solar panels on your roof.
Overall, while rooftop solar panels offer many benefits, it's important to carefully consider the potential drawbacks before deciding to install them on your home.
Both rooftop solar and community solar have their benefits and drawbacks, and the choice between the two depends on individual circumstances. Rooftop solar is a good option for property owners who have the upfront capital to invest in solar panels and want full control over their solar system. Community solar is a good option for those who cannot install rooftop solar or want to save money on their electricity bills without the upfront investment. Ultimately, the goal of both rooftop solar and community solar is the same: to harness the power of the sun and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.