Community? Rooftop? What solar is right for you?

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community solar

OPPD will soon be offering a community solar program to its customers. But what is “community solar,” and how do you decide between rooftop or community solar when it comes to your energy needs?

If you want to reduce your energy costs by using a more environmentally friendly form of energy, solar is an accessible option. The sun provides a clean source of energy that does not need to be mined, refined, burned or transported. Aside from the hardware and manpower needed to harness it for use, the sun’s energy is free.

Let’s compare rooftop and community solar so you can make a decision about which is right for you and your home.

ROOFTOP SOLAR

What is it? Rooftop solar panels mounted on the roof as part of a system that generates power for only your home. Components can be purchased or leased and must be installed, inspected and maintained. As the owner, you are responsible for the associated costs and maintenance of the system.

Pros:

  • Utilizing clean, renewable energy
  • Saving on utility bills
  • Incentives, rebates and tax credits can help offset the purchase cost
  • Net metering can be utilized, which can provide credit for excess energy generated
  • The potential for an increase in your home’s value
  • A drop in electricity costs when the system is paid for in full
  • Increased energy independence

Cons:

  • You must own your home
  • Rooftop solar systems can be expensive
  • Some types and designs of roofs are prohibitive to solar panels
  • Energy production dependent on sun and impacted by weather
  • Need for back-up electricity at peak usage times or at night
  • Maintenance, inspection and fees
  • Lengthy return on investment
  • A likely increase in your homeowners insurance premiums
  • Solar panels have a 25-year life expectancy
COMMUNITY SOLAR

What is it? Community solar programs, such as the one proposed by OPPD, are large, off-site groupings of solar panels called arrays, gardens or farms. Energy generated from the array is transferred to a local power grid and distributed to households who subscribe to the program. Your utility is responsible for the pricing structure and billing as well as the operation and maintenance.

Pros:

  • Reliance on clean, renewable energy
  • You are not required to own your home to participate
  • Entering or exiting the program is easy
  • There are no installation, maintenance or replacement costs
  • An environmentally beneficial repurposing of unusable land
  • Job creation and other economic benefits for the community

Cons:

  • Energy production depends on sun and weather
  • Peak usage times and overnight hours need back-up electricity

Whether you choose a rooftop system or community program, there are many good reasons to go with solar power. This is especially true when you consider the cost of solar panels is declining while their efficiency is increasing as technology advances. As a result, the cost per solar kilowatt-hour is at the lowest level ever – and looks to only decline further.

OPPD’s local community solar program is scheduled to come online in 2019. It is part of OPPD’s mission to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services. To achieve this mission, OPPD has a diverse energy generation portfolio as part of its Integrated Resource Plan.

OPPD currently offers net metering to qualifying customers. This is available to customers with rooftop solar and other forms of self-generation. Net metering allows these customers to credit their excess, or unused, energy back onto the OPPD gred at a specified rate.

Laura King-Homan

About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the managing editor of The Wire and a communications specialist at the Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

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