Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular for residential customers. But what do you do if you want to get your energy from solar, but you live in a multi-unit building or can’t put solar panels on your roof for other reasons? That’s where community solar comes in. A subscriber to a community solar project directly supports a solar farm that feeds into the local electricity grid; the subscriber then gets solar credits on their electricity bill, saving money and getting the benefit of solar energy without the panels.
“Community solar is that solution for so many Americans who don’t have access to rooftop solar for any number of reasons,” says Sarah Gyurina, a partnerships development associate with Solstice. “There are a lot of challenges to doing rooftop solar, so community solar is a lot more accessible.”
Solstice was founded in 2017 with a mission to make renewable energy affordable and accessible for all Americans. They do that by educating and advocating for community solar, and helping people enroll in community solar programs around the country. In Illinois, Solstice works with communities in Ameren and Comed’s territories, and they’ve teamed up with Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) to reach communities in the Cross Community Climate Collaborative (C4), with a goal of bringing the cost savings and environmental benefits to low and moderate income subscribers.
Gyurina says the Illinois Solar for All program has made community solar even more attractive for lower income residents.
“You’re seeing guarantees of no cancellation fees or additional fees, no credit requirements and higher discounts than for traditional community solar,” says Gyurina about the Illinois Solar for All program. While traditional community solar typically results in about 10% savings on energy bills, in the Illinois Solar for All program, the savings are closer to 50%.
SGA is supporting Solstice to get connected to organizations in the C4 communities, provide outreach and education to residents, and to help multi-unit facilities that are interested in signing up residents and their common areas for community solar. Right now they’re especially focused on Maywood, Bellwood, Berwyn, and Oak Park. Eligible residents in Oak Park can connect directly with the Township’s general assistance services to learn more about community solar.
Gyurina says there are more community solar projects in the pipeline in Illinois, and Solstice is also offering subscriptions through the Illinois SHINES program and through Microsoft’s “Giving Green” program. But even with more projects coming online, community solar subscriptions are limited.
“At the end of the day, there are a limited number of spots available in the program,” she says. “So the longer residents wait, the further out it is that they’ll see the credits on their bills.” She wants to make sure people know that community solar “doesn’t cost more and will save residents money in the long run, up to hundreds of dollars.”
SGA encourages interested community members to take prompt action. For assistance with signing up, please contact our partners at Solstice directly at (866) 826-1997 and reference our referral code: c4