Published on December 8th, 2016 | by Susan Kraemer0
Community Solar Now Available Nationwide From Arcadia Power
December 8th, 2016 by Susan Kraemer
For the first time, anyone with an electric bill can subscribe to nationwide community solar and get solar credits deducted from their utility bill. Arcadia Power has rolled out the first nationwide community solar plan, regardless of where your electricity comes from, and which utility provides it. Previously, community solar had to be offered by your own utility locally.
“What we’ve done that is completely unique — and we’re the first to bring this to the solar market — is we have developed our own proprietary billing platform that enables us to push utility bill credits out to consumers regardless of state and utility boundaries,” Joel Gamoran of Arcadia Power told CleanTechnica.
“Now you no longer have to be in the same utility district where the solar is installed. Our software is compatible with several hundred utilities across the country and we’re constantly adding more. And if your utility is not yet among those, we can add it.” he explained.
Solar for all of America
Here’s why this is truly a revolutionary way to go solar, and one which breaks down all the barriers.
This solar option is available for everyone who pays an electric bill, whether residential or business:
1. Even if you have only a few hundred dollars to start going solar
2. Regardless of whether you own or rent (you just need an electric bill)
3. Regardless of whether you might move (these portable utility credits will go with you)
4. Regardless of whether you have good credit or none (it’s cash)
5. This actually works best if your utility bills are too low to warrant going solar
As with subscribing to any community solar project, the electricity you get remains the same, but your subscription cleans the overall national grid by adding solar. The more people subscribe, the more solar the developer builds.
Arcadia Power has customers in 35 states, but builds and delivers power from solar farms in Massachusetts and Washington DC. Subscribers nationally can subscribe at any level down to one panel, and add more later if you want. Each panel ranges from $250 to $500 each, for panels from 260 Watts to 315 Watts.
You can check out which projects are available, their pay rates and expected savings at Arcadia Power by inputting your zip code and your electric utility.
Takes advantage of high-earning blue state solar
The credits are based on the dollars that are earned by the projects as they generate electricity into the Massachusetts or Washington grids. With their climate-friendly solar policy, these blue states pay top dollar for this solar generation.
“You are paying for the panel and then you are getting credits over time and there’s no difference whether you are in Arizona or Kentucky, the underlying value of the electricity generated is based on the value where it is generated, not where you live,” Gamoran explained. “The benefit to a subscriber will be exactly the same dollar credit, no matter where they are located.”
So the lower your electric bill is where you are, the more impact these highly paid blue state solar credits will have in cutting your local bill down.
Democratic benefits for everyone with nationwide community solar
Arcadia’s nationwide community solar arrangement completely reverses the usual solar cost/benefit equation.
Before, you really had to live in states that allowed solar to compete with utilities. And even there, going solar has tended to most benefit homeowners that pay higher electricity rates with larger electric bills.
Now it is truly nationwide. And it will be people who tend to have lower average electricity bills — whether due to frugality or low electricity rates in their state, or because they rent in a small apartment — who are actually the ones who will be able to shave the most off their electric bill.
That is because the credit deducted from your normal bill from your utility is a hard dollar amount, based on how many panels you buy, which generate power and get paid a high rate in Massachusetts or Washington. You earn the credits from this solar investment in dollars. Those dollars simply get deducted from your bill.
Have air conditioning? A case study
CleanTechnica spoke with one of Arcadia Power’s customers, Christopher Anzalone, a math tutor in Kansas City, who has seen a big seasonal variation in Arcadia Power credits. The credits are based on generation from the projects in real time. Solar generation is higher in summer, so the credits are larger in summer.
“In the summer, our credit comes to between $40 and $60, but in winter, it’s only maybe $10 some months. Arcadia estimated our average credit would be $30, and that seems to be about how it’s averaging.” said Anzalone, who is something of a solar pioneer in his neighborhood. With no solar homes nearby, he is considering beginning a local climate group.
Although they get some carbon-free power from a nuclear plant, he is frustrated at being unable to change their otherwise coal-laden grid. For them, the economics are secondary.
“Over our five years of our subscription, we will get back a little more than we invested, and that’s fine,” he pointed out. “My wife saved up for this. This was a joint decision for us. It’s like we’ve paid upfront for this electricity for five years”
He remembered their old electric bill as averaging about $130 before their subscription. They are now saving up to subscribe to their next panel, to keep shaving additional dollars from their remaining electric bill.
But what’s in it for the utility?
Let’s say you get cheap and dirty coal power and pay 8 cents per kWh to your utility, but you are getting credits on your bill from your Massachusetts solar subscription at a much higher 20 cents per kWh rate — surely the utility is losing money?
“Well no, there is actually no impact on the utility,” Gamoran explained. “They would still receive the same 8 cents for every kWh they are providing to that customer. We pay that to them at their local rate, whatever that is.”
Instead of that per-kWh rate for the credited portion of the bill coming from their customer, Arcadia pays it, making each utility whole at its particular per-kWh rate for the credited portion of the electricity bill.
How this differs from net-metering
This is a completely different solar credit from when own a solar system, where your net-metering credits are based on how many kilowatt-hours you deliver onto the grid, minus what you use. This is a cash credit that reduces the cash amount on your bill. Your credited amount is in cash, not in kilowatt-hours.
Your remaining electric bill will simply be the cash difference between the credited dollar amount and the remaining dollar amount on your bill.
The short term five-year subscriptions are also very different from solar contracts for 18 to 25 years, with sped-up payback in five years. And after the initial subscription terms are up, you can purchase new ones to continue saving.
Just like a utility signup, no credit rating is needed
Because this is a cash purchase there is no FICO score needed, just like when you sign up for electricity from a utility. So your credit rating is not a deterrent like it can be in buying or renting solar.
If you subscribe to enough panels to generate enough income to knock out your bill entirely, you would no longer deal with a utility bill at all. Arcadia would pay your utility bills and send you a statement of credits earned till your five-year subscription has completed.
You can also choose to bypass your electric utility’s billing, and just pay your remaining electric bill after credits to Arcadia Power directly.
We should all do this.