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Solar Gardens Open Up Solar Energy for Everyone

Posted Jul 21 2012 6:00am

Solar panels are becoming an affordable way for consumers help stop global warming. Unfortunately, only about one fifth of the population has enough usable space for solar panels installation. Imagine how much the residential solar market would accelerate if solar power were adaptable for everyone – even apartment dwellers.

Enter the solar garden which can help open the solar market to everyone.

community solar garden

Members of Holy Cross Energy own the panels in this solar array in El Jebel, Colorado.

Typically, one of the ways people can afford solar power is through the net metering program. With net metering, surplus electricity generated by photovoltaics is sold by the consumer. It basically introduces a way for your home power meter to spin backwards.

Depending on where you live, different limitations and caps are placed upon the net metering programs. The main motivation behind all of them is to make solar more affordable for the resident. One way of looking at it is the grid now acts as a huge battery – much cheaper than if every household would have their own battery pack.

Virtual net metering is similar but more than one household can be a part of each net meter, and centralized larger solar systems can be utilized. Those otherwise not applicable for solar systems in the past (because of lack of space, shading etc.) can now become members of community solar arrays – a solar panel garden – and receive bill credit as if the panels were on their own roof. A “subscriber” can buy a portion of the power amount being generated by the solar system, and are paid accordingly in terms of bill credits in essentially the same way as the “solo” systems.

This model can be taken a step further when an individual hosting company is in charge of the solar panels, maintenance and subscriber management. This eliminates extra hassles for the utility company and enables the birth of these communities in states where virtual net metering is not yet in place.

There is no doubt solar gardens offer a smart way to invest in solar panels for your home without the solar panels physically being there – opening up the residential solar market for most people.

For an overview of the various solar gardens that have popped up across the country in just a few years, visit Solar Gardens .

{Solar garden photo via Clean Energy Collective}

What are your thoughts on these solar gardens? Would you take part if they were offered in your area?

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