Solar Panels Seeing the Light in Community Solar Gardens


Shading, ownership issues, limited space and many other factors means that most American households simply aren’t suitable for solar panels. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that as much as three-quarters of residential buildings have physical restrictions to going solar.

However, in the last few years, new creative models such as “solar gardens” have started appearing all over the country, enabling those who otherwise were ineligible for solar, to participate in going green. What exactly is a community solar garden and how “big” will these become in the future?

To go deeper into how community solar gardens actually work, we first need to take a look at net metering (or feed-in tariffs in some countries). These schemes allow homeowners who have invested in solar panels to put their excess electricity production back onto the utility grid. Depending on the framework of the scheme, these homeowners will receive direct payments for every kWh they “overproduce”, or get credited accordingly on their electricity bill.

There are usually certain caps and limits involved; nevertheless, these schemes are all superior to a domestic battery storage system. Along with financial state and government rebates, net metering or FIT-schemes, provides the foundation for affordable solar.

Virtual net metering takes it one step forward. This allow multiple homeowners to participate in the same net metering system, which ultimately means people can “get” solar panels without having them on their own rooftops – in other words, vastly increasing the domestic solar market.

Virtual net metering is not necessarily an intrinsic part of solar community gardens or “shared solar”. Independent companies or the utility could install, operate, and manage “subscribers”, making solar gardens simpler and even more attractive for the average Joe.

Community solar gardens have seen good growth in only a couple of years. Maybe there are solar gardens up and running in your area? Head over to Solar Gardens Institute for a map over already established solar gardens.

Article by Mathias Aarre Maehlum, appearing courtesy ecopolitology.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.


  1. Great article and very informative. Thank you. If I could request, however, that you try to cite your sources it would make a great article perfect. More often than not I find myself wanting to follow up on cited statistics. Here, you cite NREL and their estimate of the number of homes that have limited or no solar access. Please provide a link to the report.

    Thanks for your work. I read CleanTechies daily.

  2. Hi Jerome,

    I`m sorry about the citation – should`ve included a link in the article.

    The source states “A 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that only 22 to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system after adjusting structural, shading and ownership issues”

    Bottom of page 2:

    Hope that helps!



  3. I strongly believe in renewable energy sources. These solar energy garden will go a long way in reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.

  4. Pingback: Virtual Net Metering and the Future of Community Solar | Enerdynamics