Community Solar – Solar Power for Everybody
Many associate energy transition with the idea that solar cells will be installed on every roof. However, looking at the reality, it becomes evident that this is no more than a romantic pipe dream. Large parts of the population cannot or do not want to install a solar system on their property. Community solar projects mitigate this by bringing solar energy to every household through one central system.
This article explains the concept of community solar projects, their benefits as well as the most established operating models.
A community solar program distinguishes between subscription and ownership based models. Solar communities are not to be confused with group purchasing or crowdfunding projects.
Community members can use solar energy even if they cannot install their own solar power system. Furthermore, providers only need one location to install a solar power plant where it delivers most value to the whole community.
What is Community Solar Program?
In contrast to individual solar power systems for home, solar communities have a single large solar power plant. This central power station provides the whole community with clean energy. Like commercial solar power plants, the electricity generation of community plants is in the megawatt range. After all, they have to supply all of the community energy and not just a single household’s.
The R6 solar inverters are a next generation on-grid inverter with ultra-high performance. It is designed for large solar farms and community projects and yields a capacity of up to 75kW.
The R6 comes with an industrial aesthetic style and an LED display, making it compact and user-friendly. It has an efficiency of 98.8% and can handle up to 150 % DC and 110 % AC overload.
Suporting 24 hour load monitoring, zero export, and commercial monitoring options, the R6 is optimized for smart energy managemen solutions.
- Best inverter for community projects
- Capacity: 22.5kW-75kW
- Phases: 3
- MPPT Circuits: 2-4
- DC Switch: Yes
- Efficiency: 96.4% – 97.2%
Solar Panels for Community Buildings
Solar projects are mainly implemented in areas of rental housing or shared flats, as they cannot install their own solar system. Business models vary depending on the their location. They are also found in appartment complexes, where all appartments draw electricity from solar panels on the building’s roof.
How do Community Solar Gardens Work?
Grid-connected community installations are also called community solar gardens. They are preferrably built in close proximity to existing grid infrastructure with good solar exposure.
The grid connection gives them nearly infinite range. As such, they are a highly effective tool for the large-scale proliferation of solar power with a single project.
On-Site vs. Off-Site
Community solar projects can be operated either on-site or off-site. Real estate investors often invest in on-site projects. This way, the electricity reaches consumers through a private network independent from public energy infrastructure. In contrast, off-site solar is always connected to the national grid.
Both variants have their strengths and weaknesses. When investing in a solar community project, it is worth weighing these differences against each other.
As can be seen in the table above, both approaches yield specifc benefits. In our experience however, a well-planned off-site project beats on-site approaches in most situations. Off-site solar farms are expected to constitute a large element of public grid infrastructure in the near future. Therefore, off-site projects have the additional benefit of attracting financial institutions like central banks.
On-site communites generally place a cap on the amount of electricity each participant can purchase from the project. In most cases, the amount of energy that can be purchased is limited to 120% of the household’s monthly average consumption.
What Community Solar Models do Exist?
Community Solar Models
- There are two main approaches to access electricity from a local solar installation.
- Ownership: Households can buy a certain number of solar PV modules belonging to the solar community. The corresponding amount of energy is then allocated to the household.
- Subscription: A household can subscribe to the project and use the electricity generated for a lower price than grid electricity.
In principle, the ownership approach is a joint purchase of a solar power system. Each participant owns a certain number of solar panels. As a result, the participant owns the daily renewable energy generation from the solar panels he bought.
For example, a household with a daily consumption of 20kWh can buy ten 450W solar panels (generating ~ 15kWh/day). As a result of this investment, the household will only be billed for 5kWh (20-15) of its total electricity consumption.
Usually, households are not allowed to buy more solar panels than required to cover 100% of their daily energy demand. Furthermore, the cost of the solar panels has to be paid upfront, which is the main difference to the subscription model.
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- Best PV module for massive projects
- Maximum Efficiency
- Transmittance: 0%
- Efficiency: 145W – 160W/㎡
- Rooftop & Ground-Mounted Systems
While the ownership model is like buying your own PV system, subscription is more like switching to a cheaper energy provider. Usually, subscribing to a project does not require the participant to make any payments upfront.
As the name implies, the subscription model instead is based on regular payments for a certain amount of kWh. This subscription fee is cheaper than the cost of the equivalent amount of kWh from the public grid.
As the name implies, the whole concept of community solar projects is to support local communities. Therefore, most projects require subscribers to live within a certain distance of the community power plant. Most projects also limit the amount of energy that can be purchased to 120% of the household’s monthly average consumption.
What are the Advantages of Community Solar?
Benefits of Solar Communites
- Solar communities make solar power accessible to every community member.
- They remove financial barriers for individuals who cant afford their own PV systems.
- Solar communities continually reduce demand vis-à-vis the public grid and thus the overall cost of electricity.
- Solar gardens can instantly supply large areas with solar power.
One of the primary benefits of solar communities is their ability to give everybody access to solar power. 30% of Europeans cannot go solar on their own because they live for rent. Others simply can’t afford the upfront cost of a solar plant, which may take years until it pays off. In other cases, geographic factors like shading or lack of space allow for neither rooftop systems nor solar canopies.
This adds up to a large share of the population. Communities remove all these obstacles with a single project. The basic concept is simple. The community jointly invests in a large solar farm in one spot, as opposed to everyone buying their own system.
Every community member can choose the amount of their contribution. This way, even less wealthy members enjoy long term access to solar power. This in turn allows for a continuous reduction of electricity cost and sustainable energy production at the same time. By buying in very large amounts, the cost of solar panels for community buildings decreases significantly.
Discover Your Energy Independent Solution Today
By working with community solar companies, we empower communities to maximize their energy efficiency on their own.
As a full green technology solution provider, we do not only supply your project with the best equipment. Our solar power experts provide you with free consultation at any stage of the project.