FAQ and Answers for Community Solar
Rooftop solar panels are installed with mounting systems either attached to the roof or ballasted with heavy blocks. Ballasted installations are used on flat roofs and require no penetration from the roof. For tilted or pitched roofs like asphalt, a small pilot hole is drilled into the truss of the roof frame. This pilot hole allows the mounting bracket to attach to the roof and the plate that holds the panel is flashed with the rest of the roof to prevent leaks. For metal roofs, clamps are used to hold the panels in place. In both cases, the panels and mounting system can withstand very high-powered wind loads and storms.
Home and business owners may realize a 10% ROI or better. Given their longevity, the systems may pay for themselves well within their lifetime. As energy prices continue to rise, the return on investment should also improve.
Expanding solar energy in our electrical supply is vital for a transition from a fossil fuel-based grid to renewable energy. Solar panels are mainly silicon, glass and wires. It is estimated that in just two years, the renewable energy produced by your solar PV system will exceed the embedded energy used in the production of the modules. The glass, wiring, and metal used in solar panels can be recycled for raw materials for future construction projects.
Your best starting point is to determine how many kilowatts of power you need is to look at how many kWhs (kilowatt hours) home, business, or organization used in each of the previous 12 months. With this, we can compare expected monthly solar energy production to your electricity usage. Annual electricity usage total is also a good start. You’ll find your monthly kWh records via paper copies of your utility bills, a phone call to your utility provider, or through your online utility account.
A south-facing area that gets sun from approximately 9 am to 3 pm is best. Solar systems also work well even when facing west or east, if that’s your best option. We can mount the systems on the majority of roof types, including a variety of materials used on pitched and flat roofs. Systems can also be ground-mounted.
Solar panels can last between 30-35 years, with manufacturers’ warranties typically lasting 25 years. Each year, the panel’s efficiency degrades by a small percentage. Yet after 25 years, high-efficiency panels produce 85-92% of the energy as they did in year one.
A community “shared” solar array is a single array that provides solar energy to multiple subscribers. Community solar is contrasted to the typical rooftop solar array, in which one solar array provides solar energy to a single energy user. Virtual net metering is the billing arrangement that allows energy users to subscribe to community shared solar arrays and receive bill credits.
Customers of the three Investor Owned Utilities in Illinois, including Ameren Illinois, ComEd, or MidAmerican – including those who purchase their electricity supply through a third-party or retail electric supplier (RES) – may subscribe to a community solar array in their utility territory. The minimum subscription amount will be 200 Watts (or 0.2 KW).
For larger commercial and industrial electricity users, there is a limitation that no single subscriber may subscribe to more than 40% of a community solar project in Illinois. However, a single subscriber may subscribe to multiple community solar arrays.
Virtual Net Metering allows electricity produced (in KWHs) by a community solar array, located anywhere in the same utility service territory as your electric meter, to be credited towards the amount of KWHs that you used – although the KWH credits will only apply to the electric supply charges, not the delivery charges, taxes, or fees charged by the utility.
The energy production of each community solar array will be metered and divided among the subscribers based on the amount of KWs included in individual subscription contracts. The community solar array’s KWHs are credited to your electric bill through a policy called Virtual Net Metering.
Here is a basic example of how a community solar subscription will affect an Ameren IL electric bill:
Household Electric Usage in the month of September = 800 KWH
Community Solar Energy Production in September = 500 KWH
September Electric Bill with Community Solar Subscription
300 KWH @ Non-Community Solar Electric Supply Rate
800 KWH @ Delivery Rate
800 KWH @ Taxes & Fees
500 KWH @ Community Solar Subscription Rate (approximately 10% lower than non-Community Solar supply rate)
Subscriptions to community shared solar arrays will be both transferable and portable within the same utility service territory. You are able to cancel your subscription at any time.
Despite the clear advantages, billing and and regulatory complications can pose a significant challenge, and so adoption in Missouri has been slow.
There are just a handful of community solar arrays around the state. These have been sponsored by either a rural electric coop or a municipal electric utility.
At this time, Ameren Missouri has developed their own community solar program, and has already issued all subscriptions for existing community solar arrays developed by the utility in 2019.
You can do your part to expand community solar in Missouri by calling your legislator about your desire to increase community solar subscription options for utility customers.