Community Solar Farms (CSF) bring you the benefits of going solar without requiring installation of solar panels on your roof or property. Currently only available in Maine, CSFs are a great option for renters, apartment dwellers, businesses leasing their buildings, and many others who are ready to enjoy the financial and environmental advantages of solar.
Explore our compiled FAQs and learn all you need to know about CSFs.
The short answer: all Mainers! Community solar is inclusive solar, meaning it is appealing to a large variety of people who are interested in transitioning to solar power but who don’t have the opportunity to invest in solar on their own property. This includes renters and apartment or condo owners, small businesses in larger buildings, homeowners or business owners with structural roof issues or insufficient sun exposures, and Mainers planning to relocate in the foreseeable future.
CSFs are also a great option for customers who already generate electricity through rooftop solar but want more clean energy than what they are capable of producing on their property.
The long-term investment in a community solar farm is roughly the same as rooftop solar. Solar farms have the benefit of greater accessibility and scale, while rooftop solar has advantages related to battery storage and home resale value.
If your property has potential for a roof or ground mounted array, we still recommend exploring both options: installing on-property panels and joining a community solar farm. Each has its benefits and setbacks, and folks have different preferences of how they want their solar journey to look!
You do not need to live in the same town as your CSF; you simply need to live in the same utility territory that it is located in. This means the exact location of the array is not always determined when you sign a contract. ReVision works with landowners all over the state of Maine to provide future CSF members a cost-efficient and viable location for the solar array.
The total membership is different for every farm and will be determined based on the size of shares owned. Typically CSFs have between 100-200 members, limited by the land and how many panels can be installed.
Community Solar of New England LLC is given the responsibility of securing the appropriate levels of insurance. We obtain property insurance for the entire cost of the system, based on the sum of all components and cost to build. We also carry General Liability insurance up to $2,000,000.
Both community solar options provide clean solar energy to the members of the CSFs, regardless of whether you are an owner or a subscriber. Each model offers different benefits.
In a subscription model, the solar farm is owned and operated by third-party developers or investors, meaning they will receive a significant portion of the financial benefits. Subscribing to community solar is much like renting electricity, with the benefits of it being cleaner and typically cheaper than electricity from a utility. Since it is a “pay as you go” system, leaving and joining the farm is relatively easy. Not everyone is ready to make the commitment to purchasing solar, which is where solar subscriptions fit in.
In an ownership model, as offered by ReVision, the full benefits of the solar investment go to the individual members of the community solar farm. Members are eligible for the residential solar federal tax credit, which is available at 30% for our upcoming solar farms. They also experience greater long-term savings than those in a subscription-based CSF, since you are building a long-term financial investment that can be sold or gifted like any other owned asset.
ReVision’s ownership-based approach to community solar farms means that unlike in a subscription-based model, you own the solar shares and can receive the same financial incentives as if you owned solar panels on your roof. Though you are an outright owner of your share of the farm itself, you don’t own the physical panels.
So, for example, if the entire CSF is 1000 kW and you purchase a 10 kW share, then you own 1% of the solar farm, and 1% of the kWh produced by that solar farm show up as credits on your electricity bill.
The members of all CSFs developed by ReVision Energy in Maine join together as owners of Community Solar of New England LLC (CSNE LLC). As a member, you own shares of the farm, which lives on land that is leased to CSNE LLC by the landowners. You pay an annual operating cost and receive all the benefits of your solar farm share!
ReVision Energy designs, sells, and builds the solar farms for its members. ReVision also manages and maintains the solar arrays at a small cost to CSNE LLC (your annual operating cost). ReVision’s role goes beyond simply setting up the CSF and keeping the panels operational. As a Maine-based company and the first local solar company bringing community solar to our state, ReVision is very invested in the long-term benefit and viability of community solar for Mainers.
Though rooftop solar is the most common way people transition to solar energy, community solar farms are a highly accessible option that benefits the owners of the solar farm and the landowners who host the solar farm. Unlike an out-of-state, third-party developer, we are closely involved in the development and maintenance of our solar farms. The longevity of the Maine solar movement depends on it!
Solar farms require minor maintenance, with the primary upkeep being mowing. This maintenance is built into the annual operating cost structure that all shareholders contribute toward. The annual operating costs are paid to CSNE LLC, which covers the regular maintenance, among other things. Our service and operations team is well versed in the upkeep and maintenance needed to keep a solar farm in peak form.
Cost depends on your share size and share size is dependent upon your budget and the amount of electricity you use or want to offset with solar. A firm number can be produced after a solar designer sees your electric bill. Typical shares range from $20,000-$35,000 before the 30% tax credit.
We have financing options that require no money down and allow you to go solar for a monthly payment comparable to your old utility bill. There are shorter loans that may increase the monthly amount you typically paid to your utility but would increase the overall return on investment. This flexibility makes it possible for anyone to stop renting their electricity from the utility and go solar.
Yes, since you own a share in the CSF you are eligible to exercise the residential solar federal tax credit. ReVision Energy does not provide tax advice, and we strongly recommend you work with a professional tax preparer.
Annual operating expenses for the CSF are based on each member’s individual system size. In the first five years, the cost per kilowatt for each share is $25. In years 6-10 the cost is $25/kW plus a 2.5% increase each year. In year 11, the Membership (shareholders) and the Manager (ReVision Energy) will collaborate on a budget for future operating expenses. We expect the cost change to be minimal and would likely follow the small 2.5% escalation each year. If you are interested in joining a CSF, a sample of annual expenses will be provided with your CSF system proposal.
The host is paid annual fees for use of the land and its upkeep. This includes insurance expenses, tax filings, and maintenance in the form of mowing and land upkeep. A sample of annual expenses will be provided with your CSF system proposal.
A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) represents the intangible value of the clean energy produced with your solar panels. Renewable power plants (PV solar arrays, wind farms, etc.) are awarded 1 REC for every 1,000 kWh (1 MWh) of electricity they generate. For our community solar farms, CSNE LLC will take care of selling RECs.
The sale of RECs are used towards annual expenses. REC values can fluctuate significantly from one year to the next and the future values of RECs cannot be predicted. ReVision Energy is taking on the risk of REC value fluctuation for 10 years and allowing members to know exactly what their annual membership costs will be for the first decade.
The most important thing to know about RECs is that they add value to the solar investment and we expect them to help cover operating expenses in year 11 and beyond.
Yes, as well as being clean and produced in Maine! You can think of investing in solar as pre-buying your electricity for the next 25+ years. The panels have a 25-year power output warranty so you can be very confident in the stream of electricity coming to you for the next 25 years.
Joining a CSF is a strong economic investment. If you add the clean units of electricity (measured in kWh) up and divide by the net cost of the system (after factoring in the tax credit) you will see that your 25-year solar electricity rate is roughly half of what you currently pay your utility per kWh. Even more astounding, it will be a third of what your utility rate is expected to be in 25 years!
As an owner of a community solar farm share, your electricity rate remains locked in at the same rate it was when you joined the CSF over the course of the 25-year contract! While grid-based electricity rates can fluctuate, the overall trend of New England electricity prices is headed upward, with an average of 3.4% increase every year.
Cost of delivery and maintaining the grid will inevitably drive-up utility rates. Solar electricity rates, on the other hand, will stay the same for the full course of the CSF’s existence.
Historically, existing net metering agreements are grandfathered any time there are changes made.
The size of your CSF share will depend on your existing electrical usage, your potential future usage, and your appetite for investment. You could offset some or all of your electrical usage with solar power, or you may opt for a larger share if you are planning to expand electrical usage with an electric vehicle, heat pumps, etc. Our team at ReVision is more than happy to help you calculate the size of your share determined on your home’s electricity usage and your clean energy goals.
While it is possible to offset 100% of the cost of the kilowatt-hours that you consume at your home or business, there are still small, monthly connection fees that you will owe to the utility.
Yes, you can offset multiple utility accounts with a single CSF share, but those accounts must all be in your name.
While you can’t expand your share within a completed solar farm, you can join a second farm if you would like to increase your clean energy consumption or add solar to offset usage of heat pumps, EV chargers, or other solar powered tech.
There is a 25-year lease agreement with the landowner. The members then have the option for two 5-year extensions, for a combined total of 35 years. At the end of the system’s useful life, we can remove all of the equipment, salvage it, and return the field to its natural habitat.
Yes, if you move within the utility territory then you can still offset your electric bill at your new location. If you move to a different utility territory you will likely want to transfer ownership of your share. There will be a nominal paperwork fee from CSNE LLC to facilitate this transfer (on the order of $200), but if you find the buyer/grantee and arrange the deal, that is all.
If ReVision’s help is needed to find a buyer, a higher flat fee will be charged.
Sounds good? Whether you have more questions or are ready to get started, we can help. Use the Get Started button below to reach out to our Community Solar Advisor team.