Power Your EV With a Community Solar Garden

Power Your EV With a Community Solar Garden
Power Your EV With a Community Solar Garden

Of the 117 million households in the United States, GTM research found that less than 16 million are in a position to install solar panels at home. When it comes down to it, solar panels have primarily benefited relatively wealthy homeowners with good credit and a south-facing roof with no shading. As Electric Vehicles become increasingly mainstream, most EV owners have had no practical alternative to plugging into the power grid and ignoring where the energy comes from. Indeed, it can be unpleasant to find out how the sausage gets made.

Major energy sources and percent share of total U.S. electricity generation in 2014:

Coal = 39% Natural gas = 27% Nuclear = 19%

Community Solar Gardens

Luckily, there's a new option that will allow virtually anyone to benefit from clean solar energy. Community Solar Gardens, also known as CSGs or shared solar programs, allow two or more participants known as 'Subscribers' to share the benefits of a single solar installation. Subscribers can be homeowners, renters, condo owners, businesses, schools, and/or government buildings. Subscribers do not usually own the solar panels themselves, but they own the energy produced by their share of the garden for the term of the contract. Though programs vary, the subscribers' share of energy generated is typically subtracted from the energy they consume each month in a process called ‘net metering’ which is common in residential solar.

Although CSGs are currently unavailable for most people, that is changing fast. The market is grew five-fold in 2015 and could represent 32-49% of the US solar market by 2020, according to NREL.

How Can EV Owners Benefit From Community Solar?

The primary purpose of a community solar garden is to offset energy consumption with clean, often less expensive solar energy. In states that have community solar garden programs, the solar energy produced by the CSG will offset the grid energy used to power your home and charge your battery bank regardless of when the energy is used. While you might not directly use the energy produced by your solar panels, the solar energy will flow onto the electric grid and offset your consumption.

Solar Energy Can Shield Customers From Rising Grid Costs

Today, the volatile market price of gas impacts everything from driving trends to overall consumer sentiment. Though less volatile, grid electricity prices can be expected to rise steadily. The cost to maintain the electric grid and deliver electrons will ultimately rise, regardless of what happens with commodity prices. Additionally, as more people invest in distributed energy like solar and energy storage, the cost of maintaining the grid is spread out among fewer people.

Community Solar Gardens can be used as a tool to protect electric car owners from rising grid energy costs. An overlooked benefit of solar energy and electric vehicles is the price stability they provide will have a positive impact on the economy. This is similar to the way large companies buy futures of commodities they depend on so they can better plan for the future. Investors love predictable pricing and accurate forecasting, and so should you.

What Are Other Shared Solar Options To Look Out For?

EV owners could also encourage their companies to provide solar generated electricity at their workplaces. This would be great for drivers who want to directly use the power generated from solar panels because work hours are typically aligned with solar hours. As the cost of solar panels continues to drop, EV owners will want to make sure they are plugged into the grid when the sun is shinning and energy is cheap and clean.