Many people who would like to get their electricity from solar systems are restricted due to our living arrangements. Those of us who rent our homes are unlikely to be able to install solar systems, of course, and many who own their homes have unsuitable roofs and yards that are too shady.
There are solutions for these problems. Community solar programs were developed to address the needs of people who want solar power but are living where installing panels is not an option. Such programs are not all alike, however, and anyone who wants to get into one would do well to find out what is available, comparing the details. In some cases, developers put up a system, selling panels to subscribers. In other cases, the systems are owned and operated by utilities. Details of cost and payback vary rather widely.
Vermont Electric Co-op (VEC) has created its own Co-op Community Solar Program, and many VEC members might be interested in looking into it.
In the VEC community solar model, subscribers are not owners of panels, but instead sponsor them. Sponsorships can last for ten years or for twenty. The cost of the sponsorship of a panel is a one-time payment similar to the cost of a solar panel.
The investment by a sponsor is paid back in guaranteed, fixed amounts, not dependent on the cost of electricity or the time the sun shines, over a period of ten or twenty years. The program is intended to appeal to people who want to support solar power and have no means of their own to install it, but the financial incentive is not trivial.
To qualify for participation in the program, a person has to be a VEC member. The VEC service area includes all of Grand Isle County and most of the northern third of the state. Those who find such a system appealing but are not in the VEC service territory should probably contact their own utilities to find out what programs are available to them.
The FAQ area on the VEC website has more information (http://bit.ly/VEC-CS-FACS). Here are a few of them:
What if I change my mind or move? Will I get my money back? Yes, participants can opt out of the program at any time. Those who opt out will receive a portion of their initial investment back, depending on how long they participated. A participant can also transfer their sponsorship to another VEC member’s account as long as that member has enough usage to take advantage of the monthly credit amount.
Will the solar credit change month to month? No, the credit is fixed and guaranteed to participants. The credit amount is based on a guaranteed generation per panel and VEC’s value of solar. VEC guarantees that participants will receive this credit for as long as they are sponsoring panels.
Is VEC selling the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)? VEC is not selling the RECs for the portion of the project sponsored by VEC members. These RECs will be retired and will help VEC meet the goals and requirements of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard, which was established in 2015 by Act 56.
Will I be eligible for federal tax credits for the cost of the sponsorship? No, the federal tax credit is already being claimed and is built into the price of the sponsorship.
Will I be required to pay taxes on the monthly credit I receive or include it in my tax filing? No, the monthly credit is not considered income.
To learn more connect with the great folks at VEC: https://www.vermontelectric.coop/community-solar or call them at 1 (800) 832-2667.