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Did you know that San Antonio is listed as a “Solar Star” by Environment America in 2019? With 186.9 megawatts of solar energy installed – enough to power about 20,000 homes – we’re ranked No. 7 in the country. Congratulations San Antonio! Our community is helping the global environment by investing in solar energy, and lowering our energy bills while doing it.

Early adopters of solar energy have installed solar panels on the rooftops of their homes or business sites. However, not everyone that wanted to invest in solar energy was able to because their roof was not a good fit – too many trees, pointing the wrong direction, or the roof was too old. They were left out because rooftop solar was the only solar program available. Up until now, there has not been a solution for those who want to invest in solar energy but either can’t or don’t want to install on their roof.  

With CPS Energy’s new solar program, Big Sun Community Solar, solar has been made accessible to everyone. Unlike rooftop solar, Big Sun is a community solar model where the panels are located offsite, away from your home or business. Sometimes called “roofless” solar because you don’t need access to a rooftop to participate, community solar brings solar energy to everyone – including renters.

How does community solar work? Just like rooftop solar programs, customers still own their solar panels. Instead of installing solar panels on their rooftop, the panels are installed at an offsite location and connected directly to the CPS Energy distribution grid. A third party company selected by CPS Energy monitors the production of the panels and applies a monthly solar production credit to your bill. The production credit follows the customers around the CPS Energy service territory regardless of how many times they move. It’s solar made simple.

Here are five reasons why community solar is better than rooftop solar.

1. No Leaky Roofs

Roof leaks are expensive to deal with, especially if they go undetected for many years. Even small leaks can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Drilling holes into the roof is common practice during the installation of the panels. The problem is that drilling holes increases the risk of leaks and often voids your roof warranty. 

Community solar is different. The solar panels are located offsite, away from the rooftop so no need to worry about leaky holes over the next 25 years.

2. We Stand for Trees

Shade trees add value to your home and to the overall community. Installing solar panels under trees in the shade is out of the question and cutting down trees is not recommended. One of the biggest mistakes solar customers make is letting the solar installation companies tell them that it’s OK to install panels under trees. It’s not. Without direct sunlight, solar panels will not produce electricity and without electricity, the solar customers will never recoup the initial investment.

Community solar projects maximize energy production by installing the panels for maximum sun – away from shade trees and other obstructions.

3. Credit that Moves with You

Know someone that installed rooftop solar and then sold their house? Did they recoup their initial investment? Rooftop solar may add value to homes under specific scenarios – 1) the appraiser has a Green Certification and understands the long-term value of the estimated generation of electricity through the life of the solar array and 2) the new buyer is willing to compensate the seller for the estimated long-term value. If the buyer is not willing to pay for future energy generation, then the seller will lose their investment. We’ve seen this happen before when a San Antonio resident sold their home three years after installing rooftop solar and was only able to recoup 50 percent of their initial investment while the other 50 percent was a loss.

With community solar, the solar panels are not attached to your actual  property so if you move, your monthly credit can simply be pointed to your new address and applied to your energy bill. The solar credit travels with you. It’s that simple.

4. Are you renting? No Problem

Renters can’t typically install solar panels on buildings they don’t own. Households living in multifamily facilities and renters are left out of existing solar programs. Additionally, businesses that want to differentiate themselves from their competition by adopting clean energy are left out if they lease their office space.

Community solar provides a solar solution for any household or business that leases their space. With the solar panels located offsite, the home or building ownership requirement is eliminated.

5. Insurance and Maintenance

While solar technology is relatively simple – no moving parts and a limited amount of equipment – the solar equipment does need regular maintenance and inspections. Additionally, because the solar system is a major investment, adding it to your homeowner insurance policy may increase your insurance premiums. Over the last few years several hail storms hit the San Antonio community, resulting in damaged solar panels and costly replacements. While insurance policies supplemented the cost of removing solar panels from the roof, some of the repair costs still fell on the homeowner. These unexpected costs have an impact on the financial return of the system.

Community solar programs include all operation, maintenance and insurance costs in the upfront cost. When the next hail storm comes through San Antonio, community solar customers will rest assured knowing that any damaged panels will be repaired without any out-of-pocket costs.

Thanks to more options from CPS Energy, it has never been easier to go solar.  Now households and businesses can go solar without taking on the risks associated with holes in their roof or moving locations in a few years. With San Antonio’s already strong solar adoption, it won’t be long before we are in the Top 5 nationwide. 

For more information on Big Sun Community Solar, please visit: www.BigSunSolar.com

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Jason Pittman

Jason co-founded Go Smart Solar in an effort to lower the cost of solar, promote the mass adoption of residential and commercial solar generation and improve the user experience. Jason’s 12 years of...