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For years our energy grid has relied on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal to power our homes. As an energy user, you’ve had little say in the matter. Even as solar has become more accessible in recent years, only a small percentage of us have actually been able to take advantage of the financial benefits of clean energy. Solar has emerged as one of the most efficient, abundant, and cost-effective sources of energy, and some households have even installed their own solar panels. However, the majority of us have been left out of the clean energy revolution due to cost constraints or roof ineligibility. Until now.

Introducing BlueWave Community Solar. Community solar is among the most exciting solar opportunities today because it gives households and small businesses the power to support a cleaner, greener environment while also saving money on their electricity costs. The best part? You don’t even have to install your own solar panels.

Sounds too good to be true. How does Community Solar work?

Community Solar is a state incentivized program that makes it possible and lucrative for homeowners, renters, and businesses to support solar without needing to install their own solar panels. Residents can subscribe to a local solar array that has been developed specifically as a community solar farm and begin earning solar energy credits that reduce their electricity costs. For the estimated 80% of US residents that are not able to get rooftop installations due to costs or roof constraints, community solar programs offer a way to participate in the renewable energy revolution and save money. Whether you’re the friend who lives in the city and rents an apartment, the neighbor with an old oak tree that’s shading your roof, the farmer whose barn roof cannot support panels, or the family that has dreamed of going solar but can’t afford the upfront investment for a rooftop system, solar can now be for you.

The process starts with construction. To create a community solar farm, developers like BlueWave first identify a suitable site in your utility zone, such as a capped landfill or underutilized farmland. The next steps include permitting and then actually building a solar farm over the course of many months. BlueWave has developed over 135MW of solar projects in Massachusetts to date. That much solar is equivalent to the annual electricity use of over 21,000 households according to the EPA emissions calculator.

Once a solar farm is completed, it is connected to a local utility and begins sending solar energy to that utility’s power grid. An electric meter keeps track of the farm’s energy production which the utility then translates into a monetary value, often referred to as a “solar credit.” This is where you come in. These credits are what your community solar subscription will generate every month, and they are what ultimately offset the cost of electricity on your utility bill.

Project-example

A BlueWave community solar farm on Oxford, MA

BlueWave’s Community Solar program allows homeowners, renters, and business owners to subscribe to the farm and receive a portion of the solar credits generated from these farms. To ensure the right number of credits are assigned to each subscriber, BlueWave analyzes your average monthly electricity usage and the farm’s monthly electricity output to determine how many credits you will need to generate in order to match your annual electricity use. The credits your subscription generates are automatically applied to your electricity bill, reducing what you owe your utility.

BlueWave then charges for these credits, but thanks to state incentives, we charge you at a discounted rate, usually around 10% depending on the state and the customer type (homeowner, small business, etc.). This discount on solar credits translates to around 5%-10% savings on your electricity costs every year. For a closer look at how the savings actually work, check out our guide to Community Solar billing. Your payments help support the development of more solar projects around your state. Thanks to community solar, you now have an easy, accessible way to choose clean energy and save on their annual electric costs!

What are the benefits of Community Solar?

Savings are a big part of community solar programs, especially for businesses, government agencies, schools, and housing authorities who can lock in serious long-term savings due to the size of their subscriptions. However, the benefits extend far beyond the savings. Community solar helps to support local communities by generating quality jobs during construction and invigorating economies. There are also the environmental benefits of adding more clean energy to the grid. According to the EPA emissions calculator, a standard 5MW solar project avoids the CO2 emissions of burning 5 million pounds of coal—that’s the equivalent of taking over 950 cars off the road every year. With each new solar farm, we help keep our energy generation clean, and our skies cleaner.

OK, I’m on board. How do I get started?

If you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a community solar program, now is the time to take advantage! If your state does not have a program, fear not, programs are rapidly expanding across the United States.

If you’re interested in solar but unsure if there’s a community solar farm in your area, use Bluewave’s zip code tool to check availability. Projects can fill up quickly–submit your application today!

Myles Fish
Myles Fish

Community Solar Product Director

Learn more about Myles

*Alex Lawton, BlueWave's former Community Solar Coordinator, contributed to this piece. Learn more about Alex

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