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Rooftop Solar or Community Solar? What to Consider When Looking at Your Solar Options

If you have thought about rooftop solar in the past but haven’t taken the plunge, you’re not alone. In fact, GTM Research estimated that 77% of U.S. households have been unable to install rooftop solar in the past. If this describes you, don’t fret. Now there is also another way to participate in solar - joining a community solar project. To help decide if rooftop or community solar is best for you, we wanted to share the following factors that we find have the biggest impact on how people decide to participate in solar: 

 

Your location

Location, location, location. You’ve probably heard this phrase when you were looking for a place to live, but it is just as relevant when considering solar because having ample sunlight is required for rooftop solar. With community solar, the amount of daytime sun you receive is not important. Instead, you simply have to live in the same utility territory as your community solar project. If you live next to a giant tree shading your property then community solar is likely a better solar option for you. 

 

Your property 

Some people love the look of having solar panels on their roof. After all, rooftop solar is an incredible technology that is often associated with high-tech, forward thinkers - people just like you! And because they allow you to generate your own electricity from scratch, people often feel a sense of pride when they see them. However, solar panels don’t always blend seamlessly in with your roof. Some people find that the color of solar panels is too distinct or that the layout of the solar panels on their roof isn’t to their liking. Those who think the latter often like the look of community solar better because there honestly isn’t much of one. With community solar, solar panels are not placed on your property. Instead, they are installed on often underutilized land or large rooftops. And, the solar farm is often just a short drive away, so if you ever want to see how this clean energy is produced, you can! 

 

Your roof type 

While your roof may be great at keeping out the elements, some are just better than others for a solar panel installation. If you have a standing seam metal roof, you may be able to just install solar panels onto the roof without drilling into it. However, many of us have corrugated metal or asphalt shingle roofs which typically require penetrating rafters in order to install the solar panels. Those of us with clay roofs and wood tile roofs are not so lucky. While they look beautiful, these roofs are often not suitable for solar panels due to installation and maintenance issues. With community solar, your roof type does not matter because the solar project is not located on your property.

 

The logistics 

Some people enjoy handling things themselves and with rooftop solar, you can do just that. Rooftop solar owners have a few things to monitor like installer and product warranties as well as possible updates to their home insurance policy. In addition, rooftop solar owners must handle site inspections, permitting requirements, as well as any ongoing maintenance. While producing your own clean energy can be rewarding, these added responsibilities can turn some people away from solar altogether. With community solar, the owner of the solar farm takes care of everything for you - from installation to any maintenance issues that arise. All that’s required of you is enrolling in the project. After the project is constructed, the solar energy that’s produced from your portion of the solar farm will be applied to and lower your monthly electric bills. 

 

Homeowner vs. renter 

Homeowners have a few options when it comes to supporting renewable energy. They are often eligible to take part in rooftop solar, community solar, and even sometimes technologies like geothermal or wind power! However, renters often do not have these options because they do not own their property. Historically, a lack of ownership has excluded renters from taking part in renewable energy projects like solar. However, with community solar, both homeowners and renters alike can participate in a solar project near them because in fact, no roof is required! 

 

If you move 

People seem to be moving all the time and supporting solar may actually be an investment that can help in the housing market. For instance, supporters of solar energy argue that homes with solar panels are more attractive to buyers. According to the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, buyers are likely to pay as much as $15,000 more for a home with solar panels. This indicates that there’s not only increased interest in receiving energy savings through renewable energy sources like solar but also that rooftop solar can be a great investment when you look to sell your home. Additionally, moving as a community solar subscriber is simple too. While you don’t own the solar panels yourself or receive a premium when you move, you can typically take your community solar membership with you and update your account to include your new utility information in just a few steps.

 

The costs

If your property is well suited for rooftop solar, saving money is most always guaranteed. However, rooftop solar often comes with significant upfront costs. According to a Consumer Affairs article, a small rooftop solar installation can cost about $15,000. Many are able to take advantage of state incentives or are able to take out loans to lower this initial burden. This significant upfront cost can also typically be justified knowing that this type of investment often pays for itself and then some over the lifetime of the solar panels. While the savings are clear, some people simply don’t have the resources to pay for such a significant upfront cost.  With community solar, there are no upfront costs or initiation fees because the customer doesn’t own the panels. However, once a community solar project starts generating clean energy, customers still receive guaranteed savings every month they are on the project.      

 

We know there is a lot to consider when evaluating how you can take part in solar energy because many of us have considered these for ourselves. Rooftop solar may be a good fit for you if you have a good property for solar panels, are okay with taking on a construction project, and are comfortable with a sizable investment. If you are not able to get rooftop solar or the steps involved are too much of a commitment, try community solar by heading to our marketplace to find an available project in your utility territory that you can enroll in. With solar options for virtually everyone, more people can realize the benefits of this renewable energy source. With both rooftop and community solar, you can save money on your electricity bills, reduce our demand for fossil fuel energy, and support a healthier environment for yourself, your family, and your community.