With the rise of large-scale renewable energy projects in the Northeast has come a new option for consumers: Buying clean energy from a solar field, through intermediaries. You have probably received flyers in the mail from companies like Nexamp, Arcadia, or Clean Choice, and been intrigued by promises of savings or rebates on your electric bill. Does it make sense? Where to begin?
First, once you sign up, know that community solar is just like staying with Central Hudson. It owns the infrastructure, the wires and poles and transformers, after all. If the power stops, Central Hudson crews respond. If you want a home charger for your new electric vehicle, Central Hudson will get involved. What changes is the upstream source of electricity. Instead of accepting Central Hudson’s choice of power, which is likely to be a fossil-fuel plant, you’re telling Central Hudson to send you power from a renewable source.
There are two types of renewable energy providers: community solar companies and energy services companies or ESCO’s. A Community Energy Advisor with the Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension explains: “To many people, they appear to be the same because they tend to promise the same thing: ‘save money, switching to renewables; no need to install solar panels.’ The main difference is that community solar is always linked to a specific project that a customer is assigned to or owns a share of panels in; an ESCO brokers credits and purchase agreements across a much larger scale. Community solar also guarantees the customer savings, while ESCOs typically do not.”
Here is a link for consumers to compare different ESCO’s: Power to Choose. Please note the Consumer Advisory Notice when the page opens. It provides all the information needed and caveats to be aware of when thinking about an ESCO.
With Community Solar programs, customers help support local renewable energy jobs and development, connecting you directly to a named clean-energy project in your area. Typically, you can save 5 to 10% off of your annual electricity costs with community solar. Unlike rooftop solar, you don’t need to own your property to hire the service, just an electric bill. Many community solar programs have no subscription fee and are easy drop. Plus, you don’t need to install or maintain any equipment.
For another neutral source of information, try Solar Sage: Benefits of Community Solar. At this link you can put in your zip code and see what Community Solar sources are in your area
To get a thorough understanding of what Community Solar is, and just as importantly, what it isn’t: Community Solar: What is it?
There is also Solar for All, a New York State utility-bill assistance program. The state is subsidizing solar farms to benefit homeowners and renters who may not be able to access solar (clean energy) passing on the benefits of clean energy while lowering energy costs. You may be eligible if you are a veteran receiving disability benefits, are on a fixed income, earn a minimum wage, or participate in HEAP, SNAP, TANF, or other electric bill assistance programs.