Helping to reduce costs and simplify the process of implementing solar PV
Community Solar involves multiple customers sharing a large Solar Photovoltaic (PV) array through Power Purchase Agreements, Virtual Net Metering or Group Net Metering programs.
Community Solar offers an option for participants who do not own their home or business location, do not have a suitable solar site because of shading, or because of the condition or orientation of their roof. Community Solar is also a great option for individuals and businesses who want to support clean energy but don’t want to assume the entire cost of an array.
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Often Community Solar projects are owned by a municipality or a solar energy developer, such as Norwich Solar Technologies, and participants simply lease panels in the system or purchase a portion of the power the array generates. In some projects, participants make upfront payments to construct the array, then receive a monthly credit on their electric bills for 10 or 20 years or more, depending on the agreement. Members can typically choose how much power they want to draw from the PV array—some or all of their electric usage.
In addition to arrays dedicated to community solar, group net metering can also provide an option for rooftop or ground mounted PV systems producing more power than the owner needs. By net metering with neighboring off-takers, they can share and monetize their excess credits instead of having them expire.
NORWICH SOLAR TECHNOLOGIES COMMUNITY SOLAR EXPERTISE:
Permitting – Norwich Solar Technologies (NST) has been the leading developer in Vermont with more large-scale (150 kW – 500 kW) Solar Photovoltaic (PV) projects permitted in the past 24 months than any other company.
Finance – We have an extensive network of investment partners and have even established our own Community Impact Investor Group, that allows us to guide our clients through the ins and outs of available financial options for renewable energy projects.
Legal structure and documentation – Norwich Solar Technologies has already completed a half dozen Community Solar Projects over the last three years and has a repeatable process and structure in place to complete many more in the future.
Local partnerships – We pride ourselves on being good neighbors and working closely with the towns where our projects are built. We welcome the chance to engage with Energy Committees, Select Boards, and Planning Commissions to talk through all the aspects of developing a new Community Solar Project in your town.
COMMUNITY SOLAR FAQs
COST & OWNERSHIP
1. How much does it cost?
Our community solar projects have a Membership Interest cost of ~$3 per watt. That means that if you buy a 5-kilowatt Membership Interest, your cost of ownership is $15,000 ($3/watt x 5000 watts) before any tax credits are applied.
2. Do I own the panels?
Yes, you own the solar panels that are included in your Membership Interest.
3. How do I finance this?
You can work with your own bank, or we can refer to VSECU or Mascoma Bank, both of which have worked with us on similar projects in the past.
4. Can I transfer the ownership?
Yes, you can transfer the ownership of your Membership Interest in the future.
5. Does it cost more than putting panels on my roof?
The typical cost of a residential solar rooftop installation is about $3.25 per watt. Because there are certain economies of scale that accompany a larger project, we can offer pricing that is probably lower than you could expect to pay on a similarly sized solar project on the roof of your house.
6. What happens if I move?
Your Membership Interest is transferrable, so if you move out of state or out of GMP territory you can sell your panels. If you move to a new home or apartment within GMP territory, you simply transfer the Net Metering Credits from your old home to your new one.
TAX CREDITS & INCENTIVES
1. How do the tax credits work?
In order to encourage more growth of renewable energy, the federal government has put incentives in place to help offset the cost. There is currently a 26% tax credit from the IRS, based on the total cost of the project, so for the customer that spends $15,000 on a 5 kW Membership Interest there would be a
$3,900 tax credit bringing the net cost of ownership down to just $11,100. As of today, that tax credit is scheduled to decrease to 22% in 2021, though there are some members of Congress who are trying to extend the 30% credit for another 5 years.
2. Is this considered an investment?
Yes, as with any major purchase this should be considered as an investment that does carry some degree of risk. Every taxpayer’s individual situation is unique, so prospective buyers should consult with their tax advisors before making a final decision. Norwich Solar Technologies is not a tax advisor and cannot provide individual guidance to prospective buyers.
1. How does Net Metering work?
All of our Community Solar Projects are equipped with an electric meter that measures the amount of electricity that is generated and fed into the power grid. The electricity is measured in kilowatt hours. Each kilowatt hour has a monetary credit that is ~$0.14-$0.17 cents each, depending on the total size of the system. These monetary credits are applied to the electric bills of the Members according to their proportional interest in the project. As an example, let’s say that your Membership Interest generates 1,000 kilowatt hours in a given month. If each of those kilowatt hours has a credit value of $0.16, then you would see a credit of $136 off of your electric bill that month (15% is retained for operational costs). In the summer months when the sun is shining and the days are long, the Community Solar Project will generate significantly more power than it will in the winter. In months where the monetary value of the kilowatt-hours generated is greater than what you need to offset your electric bill, the excess credits will be banked with the utility and rolled forward to the next month. In this way, the excess credits generated during the summer can be saved and used during the winter when the panels are not as productive due to less available sunshine.
2. What if I need more electricity than my panels produce?
The rules for Net Metering in Vermont state that a customer can only receive credits from a single community Net Metered project (in addition to a solar array located on their property tied to the same meter). So in order to maximize the investment, NST will do an analysis to determine how much electricity would need to be generated from the Community Solar Project to offset the maximum allowable amount on a customer’s electric bill. If the customer still needs more electricity, it will continue to be provided by the electric utility as it is today.
3. What if my panels make more electricity than I can use?
You can direct the excess credits to go to another customer that has the same electric utility provider.
4. What happens in a power outage?
As a remote net metering customer, you are still connected to the GMP power grid, so unfortunately if the GMP grid goes down then you will not have power until the grid is restored. A remote net metering project is not a replacement for your electric utility.
MAINTENANCE, MANAGEMENT, & OPERATION OF COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECTS
1. Who is responsible for the maintenance?
NST has created an LLC that is responsible for the operations and maintenance of the Community Solar project. Similar to a Condo Association, this LLC will manage the day to day operations of the project. There will be at least two Operations & Maintenance inspections scheduled each year to ensure that the solar project is operating at maximum efficiency.
2. What happens if you go out of business?
The LLC that has been created for the management of the Community Solar project is specific to this project and is not directly affiliated with Norwich Solar Technologies. It will endure for the life of the Community Solar project.
3. How can I see how much electricity my panels produce each month?
Each of our Community Solar Projects is equipped with an online Data Acquisition System that allows Members to view the generation of the total project via an app.
HOW CAN WE GET A COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECT IN OUR TOWN?
1. Would my land/property be suitable for a Community Solar project?
NST is always trying to help Energy Committees achieve their local goals and help all Vermonters achieve or exceed our goal of 90% Renewable Energy by 2050. Our Community Solar Projects can be located on land or large rooftops. We work with the property owner to lease the space needed for the construction of the Community Solar Project for a period of 25-35 years. We need the land (3-10 acres) to be located near powerlines, and it is best if it is relatively flat and not considered a wetland. If there is a property that you own, or if you know someone else with a property like this that might be willing to lease it, please get in touch with us and we can do an initial assessment to quickly gauge the feasibility of using the property for the creation of a Community Solar Project.
2. What can my local Energy Committee do to bring a Community Solar Project to our town?
Talk to the town planners and landowners in your town about potential spaces for hosting a solar project. Once the spaces are identified, get in touch with us at NST and we will do an initial assessment of the property. Energy Committees should also be talking to local residents about going solar via a Community Solar Project. There are quite a lot of people that want solar but don’t have a good site for it, so putting together a group of local citizens that want/need a Community Solar Project is a great first step towards bringing a project to your town.
The Revolution in Affordable Solar Energy Gives Your Community:
- Lower and More Predictable Energy Bills
- A Reduced Tax Burden
- Recognition as a Forward-Looking Community
- Potential Long-Term Revenue Streams
Norwich Solar Technologies Offers Expert Guidance In:
- Financing and Power Purchase Arrangements
- Renewable Energy Credits and Incentives
- Virtual Net Metering and Shared Solar Options
- Regulations and Utility-Led Programs