Plug Into™ Community Solar

Community Solar Explained

A Guide to the Essentials About Community Solar

Many people don’t know what community solar is and how it works. That usually means they miss out on an opportunity to participate – and that’s unfortunate because community solar offers solutions to address global and personal challenges we face every day.

Read on if you:

  • Seek ways to control annual energy costs and free up money for other things.
  • Care about the environment and want to help preserve the planet for future generations.
  • Want to use solar, but don’t own your home or work space so rooftop solar isn’t an option.

Take a few minutes and we promise to make it clear how community solar works, what benefits it offers, who can sign up – and what happens after you do. Let’s get started.

How It Works

Community solar is a collection of solar panels that brings clean energy to the power grid, along with an opportunity for homeowners, renters, businesses, and municipalities to sign up and save money on energy costs.

Find Easy Savings on Energy Costs

If you, your organization, or others you know are on a fixed income or looking for ways to save money, community solar can help by providing a way for you to save on energy bills. This can free up other money in your budget – and sign-up is free.

Here’s how you save money.

Participating in community solar is like using a discount card at your grocery store or pharmacy and receiving discounts for using their products and services – but without the discount card. With community solar, once your solar project generates energy, you receive solar credits on your energy bill at a discounted rate that help cover your payment and actually save you money on your energy costs.1

Discount Card

Save money and make a positive impact on our world.

If caring for the environment matters to you, but installing rooftop panels or buying an electric car aren’t options, you can still support solar and make our planet a better place for future generations. Community solar lets you save money on energy costs while you help save the environment. All it takes is signing up for your local solar project – and the sooner you join, the sooner you start saving.

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Plug and Play Savings With Community Solar

Community solar savings start when your solar project produces energy that goes to your power grid. As the energy flows, you receive solar credits that reduce your utility bill – with no work on your part. When you consider other ways you find to save money, you’ll see how convenient it really is to save with community solar.

Save Time

  • No Applying Discount Codes
  • No Clipping Coupons
  • No Searching Stores or Apps

Searching for most discounts takes time and effort. With community solar, you just take five minutes to sign up and you’re all set. Once you start receiving solar credits on your utility bill that lead to savings on your energy costs, you don’t even need to think about it again.

Save Hassle

  • No Rising Introductory Rates
  • No Renegotiating Discounts
  • No Fee to Cancel for Residential Customers2

Often, cable, internet, or cell phone plans offer a great introductory rate that goes up over time. After a year or two, you find you’re no longer saving money like you thought. With Nelnet Renewable Energy, our community solar contracts provide savings that automatically continue at the same rate over the life of your agreement. Plus, there are no cancellation fees for residential customers2 if you move or change your mind – you just need to provide notice.

Help the Environment with Community Solar

Using the sun to produce clean, renewable energy has many positive effects on the environment, helping to make our planet better for the future.

Environmental Benefits of Community Solar

Eases Water Scarcity. Uses less water to produce energy than other energy types.

Reduces Reliance on Limited Fossil Fuels. Replaces harmful fossil fuels with a clean, renewable energy source.

Helps Fight Climate Change and Its Effects. Helps reduce rising temperatures, sea levels, and volatile weather patterns.

Reduces Pollution and Its Effects. Helps to lessen smog, acid rain, and algae blooms that are harmful to people, plants, and animals.

Accelerates Use of Solar Energy. Makes solar affordable and accessible so that more residents and organizations can participate – for greater impact.

Environmental Impact of a Community Solar Project

Community solar projects can be built on top of buildings, water or wastewater, landfills, or other degraded or unworkable land areas. Their panels can provide valuable shade and a great home to plants, animals, and other wildlife such as bees.

The size and energy output of community solar projects also vary greatly. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average community solar project has a capacity of 2 megawatts (MW).3 When we look at the positive, ongoing environmental impact of the average solar project and then consider the rapid growth of community solar, it’s clear we can plug into a powerful solution that will make our planet a better place for future generations.

A single 2 MW solar project has the environmental impact of removing 430 gas-fueled cars from the road each year for 20 years.

Skip the Rooftop Panels and Go Solar From Anywhere

Community solar is for everyone. Whether you own the roof over your head or not, whether you want to invest in solar panels for your home or business or can even afford them – you can support renewable energy in just five minutes with no planning or expense.

Nearly half of Americans can’t install rooftop solar because of cost, or because they rent or have physical barriers.4

Compare Community Solar to Rooftop Solar

Community Solar

  • No Upfront Costs or Fees
  • No Maintenance Costs
  • No Insurance Costs
  • Can Rent or Own Your Home
  • Can Lease or Own Your Office Space
  • No Roof Needed At All
  • Can Sign Up in Five Minutes
  • Save on Energy Costs
    (Amount Varies by State and Program)
  • Can Sign Up in Five Minutes

Rooftop Solar

  • Initial Upfront Investment Required
  • Minor Ongoing Upkeep Costs
  • Must Own Your Home or Office Space
  • Rooftop Must Be Able to Bear Panels
  • Larger Returns, But Longer Investment Timeline

Plus, community solar is flexible if you move. You may be still be eligible for the same or a different solar project, and if not – there’s no fee for cancelling.2 With rooftop solar, you may move before you recoup your investment.

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Getting Started With Community Solar

Who can sign up for community solar?

Almost anyone.5 If you receive energy from a power grid served by a community solar project, you have the option to sign up. Some community solar projects are removing credit score requirements, making solar more widely available to those served by the same power grid. This can include homeowners, renters, landlords, businesses, churches, schools, municipalities, and nonprofits.

Sign-up takes just 5 minutes and your utility bill.

Get started with community solar in just three short steps.

  1. Search.

    First, we find you a community solar project by searching near your ZIP code or by your utility provider.

  2. Subscribe.

    You create your account, confirm your utility information, and sign up.

  3. Save.

    When your project starts producing energy, you’ll save on your energy costs.

Sign Up Now

If you sign up for a new project that hasn’t gone live yet, you’ll have a short wait to see savings until energy starts flowing to your utility grid. There are limited spots available, but you can get added to a waitlist and get notified when a spot becomes available.

What You’ll See After You Sign Up

Being a Community Solar Subscriber

After you sign up, we’ll keep you in the loop. Through your online account, you can access your solar dashboard, which lets you know when your project is going live. You’ll see your energy usage and impact on the environment.

After your energy starts flowing to the grid from your project, you’ll start seeing solar credits on your regular utility bill that lead to savings on your energy costs. Different states and programs handle billing differently, but you’ll always save on your energy costs with our community solar projects.

Who is Nelnet Renewable Energy?

Nelnet started over 40 years ago with a purpose to serve others. Along our journey, green became more than just our company color. Renewable energy is our passion – and it’s opened up new, exciting avenues for us to expand our boundaries of service.

In addition to providing community solar, we help bring solar to campuses, support clean technology start-ups, have invested over $200 million of tax equity (and counting) in solar projects, and provide a co-investment platform to help others invest in solar.

In late 2021, we were awarded the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce’s Green Business Award.

Proudly Supporting Our Industry

We’re a proud member of organizations working to power communities with renewable energy.

What We’re All About

Our Vision

By 2025, Nelnet will power the creation, storage, distribution, or utilization of 1.5 million megawatt hours (MWhs) of clean energy throughout the U.S.

Our Core Values

Giving back to the communities in which we live and work.

Providing superior customer experiences.

Communicating openly and honestly.

Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth.

Creating an awesome work environment.

Our Commitment to You

Nelnet Renewable Energy was built on the strong foundation of Nelnet’s commitment to serving our communities, customers, and associates. From our roots, we also draw financial strength and stability, proven operational excellence and ability to scale, and a strong drive to deliver on promises others have left unfulfilled.

We commit to making community solar straightforward and simple, being honest with you, providing exceptional service, and doing things the right way. That’s why we’ve grown and why we’re still around.

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Important Terms Related to Community Solar

Bill Crediting: Shares in the community solar project are credited to individual subscribers’ utility bills at a determined rate. The credits may appear as kilowatt hours (kWh) or they may be a dollar value. These credits reduce subscribers’ electric bills, saving them money.

Developer: The party that designs and builds the solar array, or collection of solar panels. Developers may identify and analyze sites, build financial models, secure funding, and sign up customers.

Grid: The infrastructure of power lines, transformers, and substations that delivers electric power to consumers. The utility grid is owned and managed by electric utility companies – and is used to send clean, solar energy from community solar projects to consumers.

Production: Refers to how much energy is produced by the solar project. A solar project’s production is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Subscriber: In a community solar model, the subscriber pays a monthly fee to the developer and receives a credit for a portion of the community solar project output. Subscribers can be individual households, businesses, or institutions, depending on the project and program rules.

Learn More about Community Solar

We offer additional resources and an FAQ page to provide more information about community solar and related topics. Here are helpful community solar-related links if you want to learn more about:

Find a community solar project near you.

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