- Solar power is now available for apartments via community solar groups.
- These groups handle the setup and the transaction between utilities in order to provide customers discount on their electricity bills.
- At the moment, it is only available for New York, but could soon be emulated by other states and cities.
- It could pave way for more jobs and provide solar power savings for people in dense cities.
One drawback of solar power and the solar panels required to harvest it has always been the requirement for a dedicated space in order to keep things operational. Solar panels, after all, rely on the exposure to the sun– at least the most common Photovoltaic models do. As such, they need lots of horizontal space in order to capture lots of sunlight for viable amounts of electricity.
This makes solar panels more favorable for homeowners than any other residents in urban environments. Owning a house means you get to do whatever you want with it, even the roof, so a lot of space is available to you outright.
This makes solar panels perfect for suburbs and less dense neighborhoods while areas like downtown New York with lots of vertical dwellings might find it more difficult to obtain clean and more affordable electricity from solar power. However, that problem may soon be gone for New Yorkers as efforts to provide people with solar power has improved another level yet again.
Community is key
Apartment owners or renters who dwell in apartments who both want to utilize solar power can now choose to do so. This is provided that your apartment has a community solar group. These groups pool their efforts and finances together in order to install solar panels on the available spaces of their apartment buildings, so everyone pretty much gets a cut of solar power, and therefore more affordable electricity.
There is actually a program right now with its own website that will help you find the nearest community solar group in your place. The cost may vary, of course, depending on the available solar panel brands in your area, as well as how many people are sharing the solar power. There are also other factors such as the available roof space for panels which might favor a first-come, first serve approach due to an apparently limited space.
Still, the idea is quite novel and should allow lots of people living in apartments the opportunity to go solar. After all, one could only endure the rising cost of traditional electricity in cities, and solar panels provide a good alternative to this electricity. The collective project is also relatively new and has only begun just this Summer, in time for supposed and expected Summer electricity price hikes in the U.S.
Big savings for the Big Apple
Those who are living in apartments outside of Manhattan or New York might have to wait indefinitely, however, because the groups appear to be currently only available for the people of Manhattan. Still, this can be quite a big advantage for people who live in the area because it will also allow them to save quite a lot on electricity and since they are already living in apartments, the savings could get doubled.
“I think community solar gives equal access to solar power for those of us in the city. Anything to offset your bill is great, but there’s a social and environmental impact too,” said Taka Juba, an owner of a Manhattan condominium apartment, who joined the city’s first community solar group.
The groups have their own system and division involving the host, sponsor, utility, and customers. A host or a commercial building owner can either buy its own solar array system or leases its rooftop space to a sponsor that will design, operate and maintain a system. The sponsor then sells the solar energy produced as solar credits to a utility, which in New York City’s case is Consolidated Edison.
Then, renters and apartment dwellers who rely on that utility can sign up for the discount. The breakdown of the charges and the discount will then be handled by the community group’s subscription manager. There are already several groups that are already up and running within New York, each with their own subscription deals, terms, and services. What these groups provide in terms of agreements varies with some offering yearly subscriptions while others have a lock-in period of electricity consumption amount.
Apples and oranges
One thing to note, though is that solar power for apartments works differently compared to solar power for homeowners and those living in suburban houses. The solar groups actually broker the sale of solar power to a local electrical company using the solar panels. In turn, this gives group members a discount on their electricity bills, though you can imagine that this is no negligible discount.
Meanwhile, the amount of the discount varies depending on the type and number of solar panel arrays installed in the apartment building. This factor is then affected by the number of members in the group. So basically, the discount could depend on how many apartment dwellers are involved, the more the merrier, to put it simply.
The method is noticeably quite different when compared to standalone homes with their own solar panel arrays. Homeowners usually have full control over the electricity produced by their solar panels, more so if they have home batteries. If they don’t, however, the excess power just gets sent back to a grid for a meter reversal of the house.
Regardless, the results are still the same, people get to save more on electricity and also get to help the environment at the same time.
Big plans for the future
The idea that people in apartments could also enjoy the benefits of solar power like homeowners do can be quite a prosperous prospect, especially when the near future is concerned. Should the groups become more available, the rest of the U.S. could very well take advantage of this idea.
Then, there is also the fact that the expansion of such a community system may actually bring more jobs. After all, the people pay subscription and membership fees for the groups, meaning expansion with actual employees and managers for the transactions may be necessary. For now, the groups are still small and no such executive structure is needed, but this might soon change.
As usual, apartment owners and renters in other places might have to wait for this sort of community program in their respective states. However, nothing is stopping them from being the first to initiate such a thing, after all, everybody wins in solar power.