Welcome to Solar in the Community
Illinois’ new community solar program allows electricity customers to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without installing panels on their own homes. Solar in the Community is a free resource—brought to you by the nonprofit consumer group Citizens Utility Board (CUB)—to educate consumers about the program and help them assess community solar offers on the market.
How Does Community Solar Work?
The owner of the community solar garden pays the upfront costs to build, maintain and connect the garden to the utility’s power grid. Community solar customers subscribe to a portion of the overall solar garden, and their subscription size is based on their household’s energy demand. Each month, subscribers pay community solar provider for the amount of electricity generated by their subscription. The provider then reports the output of each solar subscription to the utility, and the utility company adds credits to the subscriber’s electric bill equal to that output.
Why is Community Solar Possible Now?
The Future Energy Jobs Act, historic state legislation passed in December 2016, calls for 400 megawatts (MW) of community solar projects to be developed by 2030. That’s enough to power up to 150,000 households.
If the General Assembly passes the Clean Energy Jobs Act this year, we could see an expansion of community solar funding and opportunities.
Sign this petition and tell your legislators to pass CEJA this session!
Current Community Solar Deals
Community solar allows more Illinois consumers to support renewable energy, and CUB is pleased to see these three offers hit the market. From reviewing the terms of these offers, we did not see any red flags, though we do see Arcadia’s requirement to turn over your utility account credentials as a barrier. Still, we always recommend comparing multiple offers and understanding all the terms before signing up for community solar. Always read your contract thoroughly.
CUB analyzed these deals and reported our findings in these two blogs:
- The facts on Arcadia Power’s community solar offer
- Nexamp and Clearway: Two new community solar offers available to Illinois consumers
For a quick comparison of the three offers, consult the chart below:
|Cost compared to the utility’s default supply rate||Nexamp offers 20 percent savings on the solar energy generated by your subscription.||Clearway offers 20 percent savings on the solar energy generated by your subscription.||Arcadia offers 10 percent savings on the solar energy generated by your subscription.|
|Contract Term||15 years||20 years||No contract term|
|Exit fee||None||Clearway may charge a $200 cancellation fee. Check our blog for info on when this fee is waived.||None|
|Credit check||None||Clearway performs a “soft credit check,” which will not impact your credit score.||None|
|Billing Options||Nexamp enrolls customers in automatic paperless billing, but you can switch to paper bills anytime.||Clearway accepts: check, money order, credit card, debit card, and automatic payments.||Arcadia’s statements will replace your utility’s bills.|
|Bonuses available as of
June 25, 2020
|$25 Amazon gift card to you and customer you refer||– $40 bill credit when you enroll in autopay
– $200 Amazon gift card to you and customer you refer
|None that we are aware of.|
Solar For All
Solar For All is Illinois’ low-income solar program, and it aims to make solar accessible to people living in environmental justice communities. Like Community Solar, it too was created by the Future Energy Jobs Act. Solar for All has sub-programs for: Rooftop Solar, Non-Profit and Public Facilities, and Community Solar.
To participate in Solar For All as an individual, you must be at or below 80% of Area Median Income. This amount varies based on the number of people in your household and where you live in the state. Check this chart to see if you qualify.
If you do qualify, Solar For All is the best, most cost effective way for you to go solar or subscribe to a community solar project.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the benefits of community solar?
Community solar can lower electric bills for subscribers and improve the power grid’s reliability. Also, adding solar power to the grid lessens the need for expensive power plants, lowering market prices for all.
- Who can be a subscriber?
All residential and business customers can subscribe to a community solar garden—as long as it’s located in their electric utility’s service territory. The minimum subscription per customer is 200 watts, or about one solar panel.
- Do subscribers directly receive power from the solar garden?
No. Unlike a home with its own solar panels, there’s no way to send the power generated by a solar garden exclusively to a subscriber’s home. Like all electricity, power produced by a solar garden is sent to the utility’s grid and distributed indiscriminately the moment it’s created.
- What if I move?
If you move to a new home within your utility’s territory, you can continue your subscription. If you move outside the territory, you must cancel your subscription or transfer it to another customer who meets the eligibility requirements.
- Will I pay a fee if I end my subscription early?
You may have to pay a termination fee. That’s a good question to ask when you are considering a community solar project. Also ask if you are required to participate for a certain number of years.
|Want More Information? Dive Deeper
Community solar is a part of the Adjustable Block Program, which includes individual solar installation incentives. Learn more about the Adjustable Block Program here or on their website for consumers, Illinois Shines. (Illinois Shines is the brand name for the Adjustable Block Program.)
When the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) opened up the application for community solar projects, it received significantly more applications than the agency could fund. In April 2019, the IPA held its first lottery to determine which proposed community solar projects would get funding. Click here to see the lottery results.
The lottery was split into two groups, one for Ameren and MidAmerican Territory (Group A) and one for ComEd Territory (Group B). The IPA split it because these projects are funded by utility ratepayers, and the agency needed to ensure that the correct number of projects were built in each territory. For a list of projects in progress, click here.
Click HERE to download a PDF of CUB’s Community Solar fact sheet. (See CUB’s Clean Energy page for a full listing of our fact sheets.)
Listen to this episode of Power Source, CUB’s podcast. CUB’s resident solar expert, Christina Uzzo, lays out the different ways to go solar, the incentives for switching, and where to find good information about the renewable resource.
Watch CUB’s Webinar on going solar in Illinois. Find out if your home is right for solar panels and take a deeper dive into community solar.