Landlords across America, especially those that include utilities in their rental prices, now have a way to reduce their costs—with community solar.

This year, retail electricity prices are expected to increase 1.8 percent from 2015, averaging 12.86 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). At 38 percent higher than in 2001, the average annual cost of electricity in 2016 is set to be the highest of the 21st century.

To guard against inflating prices, community solar enables participants to lock in their cost of power for 20 years or more. Therefore, landlords who buy into community solar can enjoy significant long-term savings.

Just ask Cia McKoy.

After the Carbondale, Colo. resident had a solar panels installed on her roof, she then wanted to harness the sun’s energy for her rental properties. The rooftops of her rental units in the Roaring Fork Valley were unsuitable to host an on-site solar array, so McKoy’s only option was to install ground-mounted panels by the properties. “It would have been unsightly,” she said of the pole-mounted panels, adding that the cost made this type of installation unfeasible.

Through her utility cooperative, McKoy learned that by purchasing community or “roofless” solar panels, she could offset the electricity cost of her rental properties. McKoy purchased 36 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in a Rifle, Colo. community solar array developed by Clean Energy Collective (CEC).

McKoy’s 8.65 kilowatts (kW) of roofless solar is expected to save her more than $1,800 the first year and over $310,000 over the 50-year life expectancy of the facility. Aside from the savings, McKoy’s panels will offset enough harmful carbon dioxide, it would be the equivalent of planting 1,750 trees. “It’s a great thing—especially for second homeowners,” she said.

Commercial Tenants Can Also Benefit From Roofless Solar

Technology solutions provider Amadeus Consulting wanted to boost its sustainability efforts, so the company explored on-site solar. But businesses that rent commercial space are seldom allowed to install rooftop panels on the buildings they occupy.

“I approached the previous landlord of our office building a while back with the idea to install solar panels on the roof, which he quickly dismissed,” said John Basso, CIO of Amadeus Consulting. “Unfortunately, this is the case with many landlords across the U.S.—they aren’t incentivized to make green upgrades to buildings because the tenants are financially responsible for all of the utilities. That means the landlord pays for installation, but doesn’t see any direct return on investment.”

By participating in community solar, businesses that rent commercial space can offset their electricity use and receive on-bill credits from their utility—without the need for rooftop panels. Basso’s company purchased 100 roofless solar panels in a Boulder County, Colo. array to offset 10 percent of each employee’s electric usage.

The 23.5 kW of solar electric power will save Amadeus Consulting more than $91,000 over two decades. “In our case we plan on reinvesting the money saved—similar to what individuals do in their retirement plans,” Basso said.

Aside from the long-term savings, the technology solutions provider is being proactive in reducing its carbon impact. “This approach will allow us to continue our efforts in sustainability,” Basso said. “Hopefully our story will add to the momentum of environmental leadership not just locally, but nationwide.”


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