More New York homeowners have tapped into solar power in recent years, as regulations have eased and prices
have dropped. But apartment dwellers, for the most part, have been kept in the dark.
Starting this summer, though, renters and homeowners who live in buildings that don’t, or can’t, have solar panels
on the roof can join something known as a community solar group. Simply put, these groups allow someone in
a Manhattan apartment to lower their electricity bill by connecting to solar panels that happen to sit on the rooftop
of, say, a Bronx warehouse.
“I think community solar gives equal access to solar power for those of us in the city,” said Taka Juba, an owner
of a Manhattan condominium apartment, who joined the city’s first community solar group run by IPPsolar, a
Manhattan-based solar firm. “Anything to offset your bill is great, but there’s a social and environmental impact
These community groups essentially broker the sale of solar power to a local electrical company, which in turn
gives the group’s members a discount on their electricity bills. Each member’s discount varies depending on the
size of the group’s solar array system — that is, a combination of several solar panels — and the number of
members in the group.
Most groups have a four-prong system that connects a host, sponsor, utility and customers. A host or a
commercial building owner either buys its own solar array system or leases its rooftop space to a sponsor
that will design, operate and maintain a system. The sponsor then sells the solar energy produced as solar
credits to a utility, which in New York City’s case is Consolidated Edison.
Anyone in the city who pays an electricity bill though ConEd can sign up with a community solar group and
earn a discount. Customers pay their bills through a subscription manager, or a third-party billing vendor, which
provides a breakdown of charges. In Mr. Juba’s case, he gets a bill from Arcadia Power, a Washington D.C.-based
energy technology company that offers a personalized online dashboard showing how much energy was derived
from the renewable resource.
Several community solar groups are up and running in the city, including one operated by local solar developer
Daroga Power, and a few more are expected by next year. Many in the first wave of groups do not charge
membership fees, and they are guaranteeing a 10 to 15 percent reduction to a customer’s monthly electricity bill.
The amount of power produced by a solar array system, the number of subscribers, and each household’s
electricity usage will determine the individual discount, said Maziar Dalaeli, a partner at IPPsolar.
The terms, rates, and offerings differ from group to group. Some require a customer to agree to a rate-lock, or
a fixed rate for electrical consumption over several years. Others may charge a yearly membership fee.
Customers who opt into community solar groups are never disconnected from ConEd, and will continue to
pay connectivity and other charges through a bill from the subscription manager.