Answers about community solar

Community Solar FAQ

How is community solar different from traditional solar?

Community solar projects generate clean energy offsite that feeds into the pre-existing utility grid. The electricity produced can then be shared with customers like you in the community without requiring any installations on your home. Each month, you simply receive credit for your share of the project on your utility bill. With traditional rooftop solar, panels are installed on your roof.

Do I have to install solar panels or equipment on my property?

No! The solar panels that are generating your energy will be located off site so that nothing needs to be installed on your home. The solar energy generated is put on the existing grid and you keep receiving electricity from your regular utility.

Is community solar more expensive than what I’m paying now for electricity?

No, as we believe that choosing clean energy should not cost any extra than you're currently paying. Most of the offers you see will be about the same price as the utility, and some of them may provide a discount that could save you money. There may also be some offers that have a locked-in rate starting out below the utility, but cannot be guaranteed to always be so.

What if the sun doesn’t shine when I need power?

The utility will keep providing electricity to all subscribers, so your household maintains the same dependability of power regardless of solar availability.

What determines the size of a residential block?

The size of the residential block will depend on the amount of electricity your house or apartment uses. The more electricity you consume, the larger the block.

So am I really getting solar power at my home?

There’s no way to get solar power from a project directly to your house without attaching a wire from the project to your house. But the way community solar works, you have essentially the same impact as if you had the solar on your own roof. The solar power you are purchasing goes to the utility, who then gives you credit directly on your bill. The more community solar we sell, the less polluting energy the utility needs to buy. In other words, every unit of electricity a community solar project produces means one less unit of dirty energy on our grid.

How is Neighborhood Sun different from other companies that offer community solar?

We’re so glad you asked! We are different in a bunch of ways. First of all, we are your local champion, protecting your rights as a customer. We are the first, and hopefully only, call you need to make if there are ever any issues with your account or other problems that need resolution. To us, you’re not just a customer, but a valued member of our community. Second, our mission is to include everyone in solar, so we support low-income members of our community every time you purchase from us. This means that when you choose Neighborhood Sun, you not only improve our environment, but also improve our community. This is one of the many ways we’re trying to put the “community” back into community solar. Third, we’re local. Really local. We’re based in Maryland, and our CEO has lived here for decades. If you want to keep your dollars local and support one of your neighbors, you can’t get much better than Neighborhood Sun. Finally, we walk the walk. There’s not a single company out there in the community solar space more committed to running our business as a vehicle to change the planet. Our founders have been working to make our corner of the world cleaner and greener for close to two decades.

Urban Community Solar FAQ

What are the benefits of urban community solar?

When a series of small rooftop projects are disbursed across a city, you create local jobs that cannot be outsourced. Urban community solar also allows consumers to “buy local” and keep their energy dollars nearby. Perhaps most importantly, this approach truly builds community. Imagine a group of folks in a neighborhood, or part of the same church, or parents at a local school all participating in a solar project together. That’s empowering!

Why is urban community solar struggling to take off?

While urban community solar has a lot of promise, the obstacles are pretty steep to overcome. The first is financing. Solar developers like the large 2 megawatt ground mounts on farms because the scale and simplicity of the project makes it the cheapest and thus easiest to get investors. Small rooftop projects are a bit pricier, and without the scale the transactional cost per project is much higher. Bottom line, investors don’t make as good a return on urban rooftop projects as they do on rural large projects. Another obstacle is that building owners are less inclined to lease their roof than landowners are to lease their land. The reason is that the typical solar lease is at least 20 years and building owners in cities don’t want to tie their hands for that long of a period. They think they may not get to redevelop the property or sell it.

How can we overcome the obstacles to urban community solar?

There’s a lot cities can do to promote urban community solar. New York City already has a law on the books that provides a property tax abatement for four years for commercial properties that install solar. Other jurisdictions can adopt that law and limit it to community solar projects, to target the incentive. Municipal governments and local school districts can help by making some of their roofs available for community solar projects. Finally, local green banks or other financing entities can create a kind of insurance fund, or revolving fund, to allow buildings to break a solar lease early if certain conditions are met. The fund would make the solar project investor whole, or provide them a financial incentive to fund a new project.

What’s next for urban community solar?

We are excited at the prospects of developing a thriving urban community solar market in our country’s major cities and urban areas, starting with New York, and moving to Baltimore, Boston, and the Washington DC area. In the near future, we’ll be able to combine community solar with a micro grid and storage, which will make the local community more resilient in the face of escalating storms and other problems from climate change. Each small project will be like the drops of water that build to become a giant waterfall. In this case, it will be a torrent of sun-powered electrons creating local green jobs and economic gains, more resilient grids, and ultimately stronger, healthier communities with energy equity for everyone, the way it should be.

How can I learn more?

Check out Our Power to be connected to community solar projects in New York City and throughout the state. As projects become available, individuals will have the opportunity of subscribing to them through the Our Power website. Subscribers pay to support power from the community solar project of their choice and in turn receive “solar credits” from their existing utility bills. The more power a community solar project generates, the more “solar credits” subscribers will earn and the more they will save off of their power bills.

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