Roanoke SolarShare: Investing in Roanoke Electric Co-op member-owners and the future of the diverse communities we serve
About Roanoke SolarShare
Roanoke Electric Cooperative constructed a community solar garden adjacent to its headquarters in Aulander to make solar energy available to member-owners. The Roanoke SolarShare community solar program was created to make it possible for the energy output from the facility’s solar panels to be used for the benefit of low- and moderate-income member-owners. Tax-deductible donations from caring businesses and individuals are used to purchase solar panels’ energy output on behalf of deserving families, and the value of the panels’ output becomes a monthly credit that reduces these families’ electric bills.
The cooperative spirit lets neighbors help neighbors!
The Roanoke SolarShare community solar program was created in the same spirit that drove the creation of Roanoke Electric Cooperative 80 years ago. At that time, electricity was out of reach for residents in communities that would one day be served by the co-op, since investor-owned utilities did not find the rural area profitable. Roanoke Electric was formed of, by and for the people when they joined together to create the not-for-profit co-op in order to power their lives. Today, solar energy is out of reach for a lot of people. Among other barriers, it can be expensive to set up and maintain. To address this imbalance, the co-op determined – just as its founders did decades ago – to find a way to make solar energy available to member-owners with low and moderate incomes.
More on the process
The cost of purchasing a solar panel block is often cost prohibitive for low- and moderate-income families. Tax-deductible contributions to Roanoke Electric’s charitable affiliate, The Roanoke Center, make it possible for Roanoke Electric to select member-owners to receive solar energy credits that reduce their bills. REC will select recipients based on need-based criteria such as household income, home health and safety repair needs, and enrollment in REC’s Upgrade to $ave program. Contributors can make a one-time donation and/or support a household in need by paying the monthly $20 subscription fee for a block of 10 solar panels and donating the value of the solar output. Donations of any amount are welcome, and anyone can contribute. Visit the Roanoke Center to donate online and to access the mail-in donation form. For additional information, contact us at 252-209-2236.
Advantages of Community Solar:
- Low cost, one-time or monthly fee;
- No hassling with maintenance (the co-op will take care of that!);
- The location of the Roanoke SolarShare site is well suited for a solar installation, so you can be sure you’re getting the most out of the sun’s potential. Site suitability is often an issue with residential installations;
- A community solar program like Roanoke SolarShare is perfect for renters who want to be involved with renewable energy and who might otherwise be prohibited by landlord lease and rental contracts;
- No red tape with zoning restrictions or home owners’ association regulations;
- Member-owners facing financial hardship who want to improve the energy efficiency of their homes now have yet another co-op option to reduce their monthly utility bill;
- Solar energy output will be credited right to the member-owner’s electric bill.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the solar farm, and when was it constructed?
The community solar farm is located next to our headquarters building. It began producing solar power in January 2015.
How many panels are available?
There are 300 panels, and you can purchase the energy output for as many panels as you like in blocks of ten panels each. Therefore, 30 blocks of solar panels are available through a one-time payment or monthly subscription fee on your utility bill. Families selected to receive assistance from the program will be credited monthly on their utility bills for the value of the electricity generated by the block(s) you purchase at a rate of $.0512 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh).
Can I purchase the output of more than one block of ten panels?
Yes. All 30 blocks of unsubscribed panels are available for purchase. You can also review our Community Solar Agreement that will need to be completed before the purchase.
What does it mean to purchase the rights to Production Credits?
When you sign up for Roanoke SolarShare, you are not actually purchasing one block or more of ten solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Rather, you are purchasing the solar energy produced by the PV panels. In essence you are purchasing the rights to the proportion of energy produced by the community solar program to which you have subscribed.
What is the cost to purchase the monthly output on a block of ten panels?
The cost for the block of ten solar panels is $20 a month added to your utility bill as a subscription fee.
What is the cost to purchase the monthly output on a block of ten panels for the remaining life of the solar panels?
Solar panels are warranted for twenty years, which is considered their useful life. A member-owner can purchase the solar electricity output of the panels through 2034. The cost to purchase the output of a block of ten panels in 2019 is $3,840. Note, the cost of the panels will decline slightly each year as will the value of the electricity generated by each panel. Panels reduce in efficacy on average approximately .07 percent annually.
How will families receive the value of the electricity generated by a block of ten panels?
The value of the electricity will be credited to selected families’ electric bills monthly based on the solar electricity generation of the same period from the previous year. The value of the benefit will fluctuate from month to month based on the time of year and weather patterns.
What financial impact can participating families anticipate on an average monthly bill for the value of the solar that my block of ten panels will generate?
The co-op anticipates the average savings will be nearly $20 per month based on last year’s output of electricity from the solar farm. Contributors can make a one-time donation and/or support a member-owner household in need by paying the monthly $20 subscription fee for a block of ten panels and donating the value of the solar output. The solar output, estimated to be $19.80 monthly, will be credited on a qualifying household’s monthly utility bill to support health and safety repairs for participants in the co-op’s Upgrade to $ave home energy efficiency program.
How many co-op member-owners are having trouble paying their monthly utility bills and could benefit from donations to The Roanoke Center for the community solar program?
Close to 30 percent of member-owner households in this region have an income of less than $25,000 a year. The co-op understands that paying the monthly power bill can be a struggle for many in our community.
Can any business, local government and/or houses of worship support Roanoke Electric Co-op member-owners in need of financial assistance on their utility bills?
Yes. A one-time tax-deductible donation in 2018-20 of $3,840 will provide an average $225.89 annual benefit to one household through 2034 – the remaining anticipated life span of the community solar project. The co-op will select the member-owner recipient based on co-op and/or local Department of Social Services agency eligibility guidelines. The specific member-owner recipients may change over project period based on eligibility, Roanoke SolarShare and Upgrade to $ave project needs.
Can I select the person/household to receive my contribution or will the co-op determine the recipients?
Roanoke Electric Cooperative will select member-owner recipients of the monthly credit by applying need-based criteria such as household income, health and safety repair needs and enrollment in Upgrade to $ave.
I’m interested, what are my options to participate in Roanoke SolarShare?
- Steward: the Roanoke SolarShare subscriber will pay a monthly subscriber rate of $20 for 10 panels and reap all the benefits from the monthly subscription, an estimated $19.80 based on the anticipated output of the 10 panels and the 2019 electricity purchase rate of $.0512 per kWh.
- Ambassador: the subscriber pays the monthly $20 subscription fee and donates the value of the solar electricity output to a low-income member. The low-income member-owner will have no subscription fee and instead will see the credit for the output of the 10 solar panel as a monthly reduction on their utility bill anticipated to be $19.80 and ascribed to the Roanoke SolarShare low-income community solar project.
- Leader: provides for the opportunity for business and nonprofits to provide a one-time or annual contribution of larger amounts to support to Roanoke EC’s low-income member-owners through 2034.
- Contributor (individual or business) may provide a tax-deductible donation of $20 or more to provide a one-time $19.82 credit to a co-op member-owner’s utility bill. Contributor donations will be bundled with other contributors for home health and safety repairs to allow for more home energy efficiency upgrades.
What are the Roanoke SolarShare community solar program low-income assistance beneficiary eligibility requirements?
The co-op will work with local DSS agencies to identify eligible member-owner households.
What happens if I move?
When you sign the Roanoke Electric Cooperative Community Solar Agreement you agree to an ongoing annual commitment through December 31, 2034. However, the member-owner subscriber may opt out of this commitment with 30 days’ notice at no penalty.
How does the power I subscribe to get to the beneficiary's house?
The solar generated electricity will go directly into the power grid and utilized in a beneficiary’s house the same way as electricity generated from the co-op’s other sources of energy. By supporting community solar, you are directly supporting the ability to utilize energy coming from the sun shining on your community, helping to decrease your co-op’s reliance on power generated by fossil fuels.
What if the solar farm is damaged by weather or natural catastrophe, resulting in an inability for the farm to produce at its maximum capacity?
In the event that the Roanoke SolarShare farm is unable to perform at maximum capacity due to an outside uncontrollable force, such as weather or natural catastrophe, the co-op is under no obligation to continue paying the participating member-owner production capacity credits and/or to secure an alternative source of solar electric generation to offset the lost production from the Roanoke SolarShare farm, until such time as the detrimental effects caused by catastrophe can be repaired or remedied.
Refer to Section 6.4 of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative Community Solar Agreement.
What happens if I don’t subscribe to a large enough percentage to cover all of a family's energy needs?
You can subscribe to as much or as little a percentage of your average monthly electricity use as you like. There is no requirement to offset all the electricity use with energy generated by the solar farm.
What if I want to invest in more solar panels later on? Can the percentage that I initially subscribed to be changed?
Yes, you would enter into a new Roanoke SolarShare agreement with the co-op.
What are the eligibility requirements for participation in the low-income portion of the Roanoke SolarShare community solar program?
The co-op will partner with area DSS agencies to identify eligible member-owner households.
How do I sign up?
Easy! Just give us a call at 252-209-2236.