How do I subscribe?
To participate in a community solar garden, you must purchase a subscription. There are two primary subscription models: pay upfront and pay-as-you-go.
In a pay upfront model a subscriber purchases a subscription for a one-time fee (a lump sum) that covers the life of the agreement — typically 20 or 25 years. This is like buying all of your power upfront.
In a pay-as-you-go model a subscriber pays in monthly installments, typically based on the amount of energy their portion of the solar garden produces.
Whichever route you choose, you will not actually own solar panels, you will have a subscription for the solar energy system’s production.
How am I credited?
Subscribers will be compensated for their share of the community solar garden system’s output via a credit on their utility bill. Most credits will be made on a dollar per kilowatt hour produced ($/kWh) basis, but some utilities provide direct kWh credits. Subscribers will receive these credits for the length of their subscription.
For Xcel Energy customers, the credit rate is either based on the Average Retail Rate (ARR) or based on the Value of Solar (VOS). The credit rate used for your subscription is based on when the initial community solar garden application was accepted by Xcel Energy.
- ARR subscriptions are based on the average retail rate for your customer class and therefore vary for residential, small general and general service customers. These credit rates are updated annually and change based on changing electric rates. This means a subscriber will not know in advance what the credits will be. Under the ARR subscriptions, most gardens also include an enhanced credit rate based on additional Renewable Energy Credits (REC).
- VOS subscriptions are based on the value of solar in the "vintage year" the garden was deemed complete. With VOS credit rates, a subscriber will know what the credit value will be each and every year of their subscription upfront.
Learn more about these rates on the Xcel Energy website.
How much energy can I subscribe to?
Xcel Energy customers can subscribe to as little as 200 watts of solar capacity or up to 120% of their average annual energy use. Just for perspective, the typical MN home uses about 800 kWh each month — or 9,600 kWh/year. To fulfill all of that need might take about 7.5 kW of solar (assuming a 1 kW panel would produce roughly 1,300 kWh per year if it had a 15% capacity factor).
In non-Xcel Energy territory, you would need to work directly with your utility to understand how small or large your subscription can be.
We always recommend that people consider energy conservation and efficiency measures to reduce their energy needs.
How much does it cost?
The short answer is, it depends. In Xcel Energy territory, each developer will have their own subscription prices, but usually these are designed to be a little bit less than the credit you receive. For example, if the bill credit rate is 9.5 cents, your subscription cost might be pegged at a discounted value (say, a penny less) and therefore cost 8.5 cents. Or, your subscription might be pegged at a percentage less (say, 5% less) and therefore cost 9.025 cents.
In non-Xcel Energy, subscription costs vary by utility. Often the cost of a subscription is a little higher than your current energy cost — maybe 1 cent more, but you are locking in energy costs at current rates. Another option is to purchase the subscription up front. When you purchase the subscription up-front, you are essentially pre-paying for your energy for 25 years. These prices vary by utility and by when the project was developed.
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