Just a few years ago, most people hadn’t heard of community solar — which lets you get solar power from panels installed somewhere other than your own roof. Back in 2010, several community solar installations around the country claimed to be the first. Even people who knew what community solar was weren’t sharing information.

The rise of community solar

All that has changed. While community solar first got big in Colorado, now Minnesota, California, and Massachusetts are also top contenders. At last count, 24 states had at least one of these projects, and 12 states had legislation in place supporting them. Another 10 more states are now considering this kind of legislation.

Why is community solar so popular?

It’s simple: at least 75% of us can’t put solar on our own roof. That includes renters and people in multi-unit buildings, as well as homeowners with shaded roofs or lower credit scores. A new report from GTM Research puts the number of people who can go solar even lower (although there are new options for people with lower credit scores, so it may not be quite this low):

GTM Research

GTM Research. Click to enlarge.

But Americans love solar power. Who wouldn’t love using clean, renewable energy that also saves you money?

So community solar is about to get really big. GTM Research predicts it will get seven times bigger in just the next two years. By 2020, the report says, community solar in the U.S. will be at half a gigawatt annually. To put that in perspective, all the solar installed in the U.S. through 2014 comes to a little over 8 gigawatts.

GTM Research. Click to enlarge.

GTM Research. Click to enlarge.

A lot of that community solar will be installed in the top four states — and notice that two of those, Minnesota and Massachusetts, are not known for their huge amounts of sun. Yet more proof that when it comes to solar, policies trump sunshine.

Solar savings for all

Community solar lets any American benefit from clean solar power. But will you save as much as if you had solar panels on your roof? That depends. Costs and savings vary from state to state and project to project. In most cases, you will save money. In a few, community solar can cost just a bit more than your current electric bill — but prices are projected to come down very soon.

These savings won’t be limited to people who already have money. Just last week, the Obama administration announced a new initiative to increase access to solar for all Americans. The initiative includes a National Community Solar Partnership, and emphasizes making solar accessible to low- and moderate-income households.


Is community solar right for you?

Community solar is a great option where it’s available. You can find out more at Vote Solar’s new site, Shared Renewables HQ.

But you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself. If you’d like to know if community solar will work for you, contact a MyDomino energy savings concierge. Your concierge will tell you about community solar options in your area, and help you sign up if it makes sense for you.