Solar power is good. But getting access to solar power? That can be hard, especially in tree-lined neighborhoods or crowded cities where you can’t put solar panels on your own roof.
Community solar power projects are coming to the rescue in states across the country, including New York.
They’re building solar gardens on old industrial sites, on top of churches, synagogues and grocery stores, even on local farms so people like you who want their energy to come from the clean sun instead of dirty fossil fuels can get it.
Here’s what you need to know.
What’s So Great About Solar Energy?
√ Solar energy improves air quality, puts the brakes on climate change, protects our kids’ health, reduces air pollution, and is helping us achieve sustainability.
√ There is no limit to how much solar energy is available. We’re never going to run out of sunlight.
√ Plus, we don’t have to dig a big coal mine, or drill a polluting oil well, or send ships (and troops) to the Middle East. We just have to aim some solar panels at the sun and voilá. We’ve got power!
If Solar’s THAT Great, Why Don’t We Use More Of It?
Until recently, our utility companies and energy policies favored dirty fossil fuels over clean “renewable” energy sources like solar.
As a result, there weren’t enough solar panels being made and installed, which is why solar cost more.
In fact, all renewable energy has been something of a luxury item. You could get it, but you had to pay a premium for it. Sort of like buying a Gucci purse, or a Ferrari.
Community solar power has changed all that. Now you can get the solar version of Gucci or Ferrari without it costing you any more.
In fact, it’s going to cost you less. You’ll end up saving money on energy and getting rewarded for doing the right thing when you start using solar power generated in your own community.
How Does Community Solar Power Actually Work?
If you were to put solar panels on your own home’s roof, the panels would capture sunlight and convert it into electrical current. The more electricity you used from solar, the less you’d use that was generated by fossil fuels.
Community solar power works the same way, but instead of the panels being on your own roof, a lot of them – called an array – are installed in a convenient, shared solar garden.
As soon as the panels are installed, they start generating electricity.
That’s where you come in.
If you’ve signed up, you can replace part (or all!) of the electricity you get from polluting energy sources with energy from the sun. That’s all there is to it.
So…What’s the Catch?
The catch is that right now, more people want community solar power than can actually get it.
In New York State, for example, OurPower estimates that, based on the number of projects planned and how many people want to opt in, only 2% of households will actually be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
Yikes! I Don’t Want to Miss Out. What Should I Do?
The easiest and smartest thing to do is to sign up ASAP on OurPower’s “Insiders List.”
Signing up doesn’t obligate you to start using solar (though, if you’re like me, you probably want to power up with solar as soon as you can).
It just makes sure you’re on the inside track, so that as soon as community solar is available, you’ll be among the first to find out about it.
What’s It Going to Cost Me to Sign Up?
Nothing. Nada. A big fat zero.
All signing up does is make sure you’re on the inside track so you can be among the first to opt in when community solar starts working in your neighborhood.
Once you do opt in, you’ll get credited on your regular utility bill for the amount of solar you use, just as if you had put solar panels on your own roof.
How Will Community Solar Power Save Me Money?
Right now, you pay your utility company a certain price for every kilowatt-hour of energy you use. The same kilowatt-hour, when it comes from a community solar project, costs you about 10-20% less. So, the more of your energy use you cover with community solar, the more money you’ll save.
With most projects, you’ll get two bills, one from your solar provider and a second from your utility.
You only pay your utility for electricity you use that’s over and above what’s covered by solar.
How Do I Know I Qualify?
If you live in New York, count yourself lucky. Not every state has the right laws in place that make community solar possible. But if you are a New Yorker and you pay a utility bill, you can subscribe.
It’s that simple.
Why Should I Sign Up If the Projects Aren’t Actually Available Yet?
It’s like signing up for a new iPhone before you can actually buy it (though community solar is even better, because you don’t have to camp out overnight in front of an Apple store or wait in longlines). Like those iPhone folks, you don’t want to miss out! Only 2% of people can participate in the next go round.
Signing up for OurPower’s Insider’s List guarantees that
you’ll be among the first to know when solar energy is available to buy
from your community solar power project.
(By the way, if you don’t live in New York but love the idea of community solar power, please still sign up so when community solar does come to your area, you’ll be the first to know.)
What Can I Do Right Now?
The most important thing you can do right now is save your spot by signing up. It’ll only take you five seconds. Seriously!
Partner Note: Partnering with great projects like OurPower enables us to bring you valuable information and opportunities to live a greener life that you might otherwise not know about. It also helps Big Green Purse fulfill our mission to help people shift to the greenest products and services available. Thanks!