Regardless of its many advantages, we’ll be among the first to admit that solar power isn’t exactly a renter-friendly technology. Whether you live in an apartment, condo or multi-family home, the prospect of installing a solar panel array, however attractive, is for the most part dimmed by the temporality of your residence. However, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District has a program on offer for renters and others who do not currently reside in a single-family home, with an interest in going solar.
SolarShares, which services up to 1,000 customers, is essentially composed of a 1 MW solar farm from which SMUD customers can buy “shares”— parcels that grant them ownership of a small fraction of the solar array. The electricity generated by each customer’s “shares” appears as a credit on his or her energy bill, a savings expected to average between $4-$50 a month, given the variability in sunshine production throughout the year. (Naturally, summer is the most productive time for solar panels.) For a monthly fee—starting at $10.75 a month for a 0.5 kW system—SolarShares program participants can opt into solar power production without the high upfront costs traditionally associated with a full-size residential solar panel installation. In its current phase, the SolarShares program is sold out, although plans are in progress to expand capacity. You can find out more on the SolarShares website here. (And California isn’t the only state with a community solar farm setup! Similar programs can be found in Colorado, St. George, Utah, and Falmouth, Massachusetts.)
By adding on roughly 9 percent to customers’ energy bills, however, the SolarShares program is still far from perfect. After all, it’s primarily a way for those with an interest in solar—but who are ineligible for a rooftop array, for one reason or another—to opt into a system with great environmental impact. Nevertheless, in spite of its occasionally forbidding upfront costs, owning a solar array is still the best option for those seeking to take advantage of the cost-effectiveness of solar power. For many renters, SolarShares may currently be the best choice for going solar, but keeping your options open in the future—especially if you do eventually find yourself a proud homeowner—wouldn’t go amiss.