How does community solar work?
Community solar allows any Xcel Energy customer to “go solar” by subscribing to a shared solar garden. Those gardens, owned by independent solar businesses, deliver solar energy to all Xcel Energy customers. In turn, each subscriber is credited on their bill for their share of the community solar garden’s output each month.
What should I consider when choosing a community solar business?
The solar industry in Minnesota is growing rapidly, with new businesses and jobs being added every day. To help consumers navigate this rapidly growing market, Fresh Energy has established a set of best practices you can look for when choosing a community solar business.
- A ‘Good Neighbor’ is a community solar business that addresses basic customer needs, including transparency and accountability.
- A ‘Community Leader’ is a community solar business that is taking extra steps to expand the community solar market to all Minnesotans, no matter what income.
Fresh Energy will be continually updating the list of solar businesses that have voluntarily agreed to conditions of each pledge level.
CLEAR SUBSCRIPTION TERMS
- Company provides a point of contact for the subscriber
- Company clearly lists its qualifications and licensures
- Customer is allowed at least 30 days to review and sign contract before terms change
- Contract is written in plain language, with easily readable and consistent font size throughout
- Subscription term does not exceed 25 year life of CSG agreement with Xcel Energy
- Information is provided on the garden’s location and status in the utility review process
- Clear explanations are provided on any customer obligations in the event of a subscriber moving, passing away, or decreasing their home energy usage
- Clear information is provided on how customer’s contract and bill credits will be impacted by a decline in solar energy production
TRANSPARENT PRICING INFORMATION
- Assumptions on future electricity prices are transparent, clearly explained, and supported by publicly available sources
- Any and all payments due at signing and during other phases of the project are disclosed
- Customers are allowed to compare costs and terms with offerings by other companies before signing
- Reasonable grace period is provided for any late payments
NON-ONEROUS EARLY TERMINATION CLAUSE
- Any early termination fee does not exceed the amount that would have otherwise been owed by the customer for the remainder of the term
- Customers are provided with a reduced termination fee in the event of a subscriber moving, passing away, or decreasing their home energy usage
ROBUST OFFERINGS TO RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS
- Company offers pay-as-you-go pricing structure
- Company offers innovative and customer-friendly project models 1
EFFORTS TO REDUCE KNOWN BARRIERS FACING LOW-INCOME RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS
- Company provides educational information regarding community solar programs and partners with low-income organizations and/or community action agencies to reach out to low- and moderate-income households
- Company is working with lenders to reduce credit score requirement 2
Consumer-Friendly Community Solar Businesses
Listed below are the solar businesses who have taken the Consumer-Friendly Community Solar Pledge. Click on the logos below to learn more about the solar options that each solar business offers.
Community Energy Solar
As a leading renewable energy supplier and developer with a 15-year track record, Community Energy Solar has taken the Community Leader and Good Neighbor community solar pledge. We understand the importance of transparent, consumer-friendly contract terms and pricing that enable the development and construction of new solar power in Minnesota. As an example, our contract includes a straightforward cancellation option, which gives customers the choice to transfer the contract free of charge or pay a simple, low cancellation fee. Community Energy Solar is proud to take this pledge and we applaud Fresh Energy for developing Consumer Friendly Community Solar Rating and setting best practices for community solar garden subscriptions that work for consumers and new solar development. Interested residents can call Community Energy’s dedicated team of Solar Consultants to learn more or receive a personalized proposal at 612-400-8878 or visit our website.
Cooperative Energy Futures
Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF) is a member-owned Minnesota cooperative business supporting communities in developing Community Solar Gardens that are rooted in the communities that they serve, operate democratically and transparently, and focus on building community wealth. CEF is pleased to
take Fresh Energy’s Community Leader pledge.
CEF offers subscribers a choice between a pay-as-you-go subscription, our most popular offering, and upfront subscriptions that allow members with capital to generate even more savings over time. Our pay-as-you-go subscription rates escalate for only the first few years of the subscription and then lock in at a flat rate saving our members an increasing percentage as electric rates rise. CEF has very flexible early termination provisions that allow subscribers to transfer their subscription to a new subscriber for only $75, and to transfer their subscription to the co-op at the cost of only three months of subscription fees – upfront subscribers get paid the remaining value of their transferred subscription when it is resold. CEF has also pioneered approaches focusing on community-based clusters of local residents working in partnership with local governments, community groups, and congregations, with a focus on serving low-income individuals and making community solar available to all regardless of credit score. CEF operates transparently for the benefit of its members, and as members, subscribers have a direct vote in electing the co-op’s leadership and share in its profits based on the size of their subscription. To join us, visit our website or call (612) 568-2334.
Minnesota Community Solar
Minnesota Community Solar is taking the Fresh Energy Pledge to be a Community Leader. We feel that our pay-as-you-go structure, no upfront cost, and user-friendly termination fees make us a leader in the local market.
With no upfront investment or signing fee, the contract allows the flexibility for subscribers to pay for only what they use and what the garden produces. A low, fixed escalator of 2.3% ensures transparency for the duration of the 25-year contract. A transfer fee of $100, and/or a termination fee of $250, makes this contract the most subscriber-friendly in the marketplace.
In addition, MNCS is working to educate lenders and financiers on the community garden program to address the perceived and actual risk of all subscribers, especially low and moderate-income households. This will hopefully broaden subscriber eligibility over time, with the ultimate goal of making solar available for everyone. For information on our offerings, or for any questions you may have, please feel free to contact us at 612-345-7188 or visit us at our website.
SunShare is one of the largest and most experienced community solar companies in the country. We’re dedicated to providing a cleaner, brighter planet by using the power of the sun to power our lives. Our team is proud to be at the forefront of the shared solar revolution and we are excited to give our customers the power to choose clean, locally generated solar energy.
We are committed to providing excellent service to our customers. Any potential customer can sign up on our website to receive our Solar Services Agreement by email, which includes all of our subscription terms such as the length of the agreement and how to transfer or cancel your subscription. We also have information about SunShare, our team, and our gardens on our website, and are happy to answer any questions about our company, subscriptions, gardens and qualifications by phone (612-345-8881) or email (email@example.com).
Disclaimer: The information provided above is for general information only. The Consumer-Friendly Community Solar Pledge is intended only to provide information regarding desirable residential community solar garden contract terms and does not constitute an endorsement or approval by Fresh Energy. Fresh Energy assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of solar developers’ statements accepting this pledge, and accepts no liability for any loss or damage which may arise from reliance on such statements. Community solar customers are wholly responsible for reviewing the entirety of each community solar contract prior to entering into an agreement with a solar developer.
1 – (e.g., “back-up subscriber” model, which pairs a large institutional subscriber with several residential subscribers in the immediate community, allowing the institutional subscriber to support the overall subscription if a residential subscriber can no longer meet the subscription obligations)
2 – (e.g., providing at least one subscription model that allows subscribers with credit scores less than 680)