More Consumers Opting for 'Community Solar' to Cut Power Bills

Oct 27, 2023

Most Americans support the increased use of solar power. Many have even weighed installing solar panels on their own rooftops. The problem is, only half of them can, industry experts say.

The other half rent apartments or homes. They either lack access to their roofs or don’t have the legal right to make major changes to them. That, or they live on largely shaded lots. Or they can’t afford to install solar panels. It's a purchase that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. So what are environmentally conscious energy consumers looking to cut their power bills to do?

A growing number are opting for “community solar.” They then become partial owners or subscribers in solar farms that serve many dwellings. The electricity produced by these arrays is fed into the local power grid. The energy credits are then split among solar farm members.

Members also see a drop in their monthly bills. It can be about 10%.

Dan Kammen teaches at the University of California. The energy professor told The Washington Post: “The economics are strongly on the side of doing this. It’s now cheaper to build new solar than to operate old fossil fuel plants.” Analysts project the community market will grow by 118% within the next five years. They also predict shared solar farms will be producing six gigawatts of energy. That's enough to power five million homes.

Some customers are simply grateful for lower utility bills.

“I live in a small four-unit condo, and there’s no way that we could afford solar panels,” Ann Darling told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She's a solar farm participant in Easthampton, Massachusetts. “This is a little something," she said.

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Giorgio Trovato.

Reflect: What role, if any, should the government play in supporting a transition to cleaner energy options?

Based on the details in the story, why aren't more Americans able to install solar panels on the roofs of their homes? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. They can’t afford it.
b. They rent their home.
c. They live on a heavily shaded lot.
d. All of the above.
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