One of the barriers to wider adoption of solar energy by consumers is the large upfront cost of installing a rooftop panel. Additionally, many electricity customers are renters or live in a condo with homeowners association rules that prevent certain kinds of construction on their property.
But these issues may soon become moot thanks to one trend that's sweeping the nation. Some states are making it possible for residents to band together and construct solar farms that feed renewable energy into the grid. These community-owned gardens are set up in such a way that anyone with a utility meter – whether they're a renter, a member of an HOA or if their house is in permanent shade – can purchase a solar panel in the array. As this panel produces power, the utility company will apply a credit to the customer's energy bill, lowering their electricity costs and helping the environment at the same time.
PV-Tech.com, a site that tracks the solar energy industry, reports that a community-owned solar garden was recently completed in Boulder, Colorado. Clean Energy Collective, an organization that manages these arrangements, contracted REC Solar to design and construct a 500 kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system which will begin selling energy to the grid. Customers who purchase or lease panels in the system will receive a per-kilowatt-hour rebate on their utility bill, similar to what they would get if they had a PV system on top of their house that supplied electricity to the grid.
According to the SolarGardens.org, a solar news site, similar community-owned energy farms are operating or being planned for California, Arizona, New Mexico and other states. Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more updates on how energy consumption is becoming more sustainable.