1. I live in an apartment. Can I still join the community? - Absolutely! The only requirement is that you live in the same service territory as one of the community parks.
2. I want to become a member but you don't have a park in my service provider's territory. What can I do? - Let us know you're interested. We will check with the utility's net metering policies and see if there are enough other customers who would like to become Community Solar members. If so, we can open a park in your area.
3. What is a “mutual benefit corporation”? - A mutual benefit corporation exists for the benefit of its members. Mutual insurance companies and various types of cooperatives, such as farm coops and rural electric coops, are common examples. The members own the corporation and share in its obligations and rewards. Since it is a nonprofit entity, excess cash savings are returned to the members as patronage or dividends. Community Solar Partners might be thought of as a cross between Farm Credit and an electric cooperative. We offer members electric power, but we do that by partnering with them to finance their solar generators instead of charging a rate for each unit of power consumed.
4. How can you make solar cheaper? - Most financial incentives for renewable energy are in the form of tax breaks; therefore only high-income taxpayers can take full advantage of them. Community Solar Partners brings together high-tax-bracket investors and lower-income power consumers to partner on the purchases. The investors can take advantage of the tax features and pass the lower net costs along to our members. In return, our members collectively reduce the repayment risks to the money partners by spreading the obligations over a larger number of consumers. We bring economies of scale to both sides of the transaction. Some members may also qualify for utility rebates or federal grants to help cover their purchase price. CSP can help with the applications for these funds as well.
5. How does this work? – Community Solar Partners helps finance solar generator units for our members to produce renewable energy. This power can be used directly, or more commonly delivered to the power grid. The power produced and delivered to the grid is metered on a production meter. Each unit of power is then credited against the units used by the member at their home or business. Power produced cancels out power consumed and a “net metering bill” is produced by the utility. If more power is produced than consumed, the kilowatt hours may be carried over to the next month, and so on, until the credits are used in months that the power produced does not equal the power consumed. CSP provides a buffer for this to its members, collecting a set monthly fee and using that to pay the cost of the member’s solar equipment as well as any costs of power from the local utility.
6. How much does this cost? – The price of the generators is $15,000 per 5 KW unit. However, for high tax bracket buyers, the net after tax cost is less than $6,000 per unit. Community Solar Partners offers additional financing options. In general, the cost to our members can be structured so that the monthly bill for electricity is reduced by 20-50% over the current power bill. Alternatively, if a member desires to purchase their solar generators outright, we can help arrange financing through third parties.
7. Do I need to be a major user of power to benefit? – If you are paying $100/month or more for electricity from your local utility, you can realize a significant benefit. Each situation is different, but generally most residential and commercial customers can benefit by incorporating solar into their power provider relationships.
8. What if my roof won’t work for solar? – No roof is needed for members of Community Solar! In fact, our members don’t even need to own their homes or buildings. We specialize in developing and operating community solar parks where members can rent space to install their solar generators at one of our meters for as long as they want. The power produced by your generator in our park is netted against the power you use at your home or business and a single net bill is generated for your account.
9. Does this mean I will have to pay two electric bills, one to my utility and one to Community Solar Partners? That’s entirely up to you. You can arrange it that way, or you can choose to use our bill consolidation and payment service so that both your power company purchases and your solar equipment payments are consolidated into one fixed monthly payment.
10. What if I move? As long as you stay in your current utility service area, you don’t need to move your generator if it is in one of our parks. You simply change the location and identity of your consuming meter. We can help with that. If your generator is located at your home or business, it can be relocated to your new site or into one of our parks if it is not sold with the property.
11. What if I can no longer use the generator? Our generators are standardized. If you lease from us, we can cancel your lease and offer that generator for another member’s use. If you purchase your generator from us, we can help you sell it to another member, or repurchase it from you for our fleet.
12. What if I stop paying for the generator? If your deposit is used to service your obligations, we will terminate your lease or repossess the equipment. In either event, the power produced by that equipment will no longer be credited to your account and your power consumption will revert to your utility’s normal rates. Failure to pay will also terminate your membership and any account services provided by Community Solar Partners.
13. Am I responsible if other members fail to pay their bills? Each member’s financial obligations are limited to their annual membership dues and their equipment payment contracts. If the local CSP facility determines that it needs to increase its cash reserves to cover operating expenses, including bad debts, it can only do so by a vote of the membership, and then it can only do so by adjusting the annual membership dues. On the other hand, if the facility operates at a savings, those funds are returned to the members in the form of an annual dividend.
14. What if the systems break down? Community Solar provides service on all the equipment it sells. Our lease rates include repair and replacement costs. Purchased units are covered by a 25 year manufacturer’s warranty, which is further backed by CSP’s service agreement. All units managed by CSP are also fully covered by hazard insurance.
15. Must I purchase my solar system through Community Solar Partners? No, though outside systems are subject to design review and approval before being accepted into one of our community solar parks or for our energy management and consolidation services.
16. Can I finance a residential roof-top system through Community Solar Partners? CSP provides financing only for ground-based and flat-roof commercial solar generators.
17. What sizes of solar generators are available from Community Solar Partners? Our generators are modularized in 5 KW units. We can provide systems from 5 KW up, though the limits for net metering in Arkansas are 25 KW for residential applications and 300 KW for commercial facilities. In Missouri the limits are 25 KW and 100 KW respectively.
18. What if I need more (or less) power? We can easily provide more generator units and adjust your purchase and financing contract to accommodate. By the same token, we can remove one unit to reduce the size of your contract if your power needs become significantly less. Since our generator units are modularized, we can even provide extra power for relatively short durations for special projects, such as a major construction job on site or the addition of a new production line.
19. How much does it cost to get started? Our analysis is free; a preliminary reservation in one of our Community Solar parks is free, at least until we are ready to put generator units in it. Once you have decided to commit to solar, we charge a $500 deposit to hold your order until the products are installed and ready to produce power. The financing you select will determine what funds, if any, are required after that. Our leasing package requires a deposit equal to three months’ payments.
20. How do I get started? Ask your utility company for a record of your last 12 to 36 month’s power usage, and go to the work sheet on our web site to see what your potential savings could be; or call us at 479-790-2307 to discuss your situation and have us do the analysis for you. Once you’ve decided that solar makes sense for you, reserve a membership and spot in one of our solar parks. Each park is limited in size, so we can only take so many members in each location and spaces are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. (But we do need to know how much power you will need to generate.)
21. How much electricity will one SolarPod® solar generator produce? Solar power is by its very nature variable due to weather, seasons, and other factors that we cannot control. Nevertheless, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, each KW of rated capacity for a SunPods® Solar generator can be expected to produce about 1500 kwh of energy per year, with some years running a little more and some running a little less. Over the 25 years covered by the product warranty period, one 5 KW Sun Pod generator can be expected to produce 187,500 kwh of power.
22. How much can one SolarPod® solar generator save me on my electricity bill? Using the figures from the answer above, and a $.10/kWh net metering rate, this could yield a savings of $18,750 over the same period. The savings realized for each customer will depend on the financing option chosen and their individual tax rate. However, Community Solar Partners expects each customer to realize a minimum of 20% savings on their overall monthly cost of power. Total net savings will vary from customer to customer based on their purchasing options and tax profile.
23. What financing options are available? SolarPods® solar generators are assembled and sold by Syntex Solar at a negotiated, competitive price. Community Solar Partners offers a 25 year financing option to bring the tax advantages of ownership to each customer without having to make a large down payment or be in a high tax bracket.
24. What is the net cost to purchase a SunPod® solar generator? SunPod® solar generators sell for $15,000 each, but qualify for 30% federal investment tax bracket. Also, many buyers may qualify for depreciation on their purchase cost. The net cash tax benefit of depreciation can reduce the cost of the units by another 20 to 45% or more, depending on the owner’s tax bracket. Assuming a 30% tax bracket (25% federal and 7% state) the net after tax cost of a $15,000 SunPod® solar generator will be about $6000. Amortized over the 187,500 kWh expected production, this works out to $0.032/kWh, or about 65% below the current retail total cost of electricity.
25. What is the Community Solar 25 year financing option? This financing allows the buyer to purchase a Sun Pod generator with nothing down, a monthly payment of $45 and a balloon payment of 33% ($5000) after 5 years to obtain “free electricity” for the next 20 years. The total cost under this plan will be about $7700, or less than half the retail cost of electricity for the same time period.
26. What if I can’t or don’t want to make the balloon payment? If the balloon payment is not made, the financing contract automatically converts to a new 20 year term note with payments adjusted to rise with inflation (2.5% to 3% per year). The total cost under this arrangement would be about $12,000 – about 35% less than the retail cost of electricity from your utility.
27. Can I sell my SunPod® solar generator to someone else? Of course, the generator belongs to you. You can transfer it to anyone you wish as long as you comply with the terms of your financing arrangement, regardless of who provides the financing. If your buyer wants to use one of our community solar parks, they will have to become a Community Solar Partners member.
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