Frequently Asked Questions

How does RooflessSolar work?

Clean Energy Collective builds a RooflessSolar (Community Solar) array within your utility’s service territory. Then, as clean power is produced by the RooflessSolar array, power is transferred to your local utility's grid and distributed to customers across the territory. You, as a participant in the program, receive credit on your electric bill for the power produced by your system located within the array.

How much will I save?

Savings will be determined by the size of your system and the bill credit rates provided by your local utility.

You can select your system online or work with a Clean Energy Collective Solar Specialist to customize a proposal that will provide your estimated monthly and lifetime savings.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a RooflessSolar system varies depending on the available options in your market, your system size, and the individualized system selections. We suggest working with a Solar Specialist to determine which participation option is best for you.

Do I have to maintain anything?

No. All maintenance is handled by Clean Energy Collective. CEC handles all operations and maintenance of the RooflessSolar array. In maintaining the system, we monitor production, file any necessary claims against equipment warranties, and replace otherwise damaged equipment.

How is RooflessSolar different than rooftop solar?

It's out of sight and out of mind!

Many homes and businesses are not ideal for the installation of traditional rooftop solar for reasons including shading limitations, shared rooftop ownership, structural issues, accessibility for maintenance, and HOA limitations, to name a few. Because RooflessSolar is not located on your property, any electric customer – even renters - can participate. RooflessSolar is ideally sited and oriented towards the sun, ensuring optimal solar production with commercial grade equipment.

Do customers need to own a home or building to participate?

No! This is one of the many benefits of owning solar with CEC. Anyone with an electric bill is eligible to purchase solar panels, including both homeowners and renters.

How can I monitor my panels’ performance?

As a CEC customer, you can log on to your My Own Clean Energy account via the CEC website.

There you can see your system's details, review your customer documents, and access real-time information about your portion of the array's production, bill credits, and positive environmental impact.

Why would a member / rate payer consider Clean Energy Collective?

Clean Energy Collective (CEC) offers a new vehicle for renewable energy – community-owned solar. This is a system whereby the community (members / rate payers) purchase and own the solar array. Roughly 2/3 of the nation is not well situated for solar given the placement of their homes and businesses which could include obstructions, trees, or lack of real estate for placement of solar panels. Furthermore, there are many individuals who simply cannot take advantage of renewable energy solutions because they are renting their residence (and don’t own the property) or are located in a metropolitan area where there is literally no space for solar panels. Given all these factors, only approximately 15% of individuals have access to solar solutions. CEC overcomes that by partnering with the utility and making solar energy available to the member / rate payer through the utility and a large community-sited solar facility (nothing onsite).

Why would a utility consider CEC?

Utilities are getting increasing pressure to offer renewable solutions to their customers. Furthermore, many utilities are facing legislation that requires them to hit certain RPS requirements involving renewables. These utilities do not want to deviate from their “bread and butter” operations and core competencies to embark upon an expensive project in renewables. CEC is the answer – we offer turnkey solar solutions to meet RPS requirements at no cost to the utility outside of a mutually agreed power purchase rate. This not only allows the utility to provide renewable energy options to customers, but it generates considerable PR for the utility as such options can be provided as utility branded (see Co-Branded option below), yet fully funded and administered by CEC. Finally, the utility does not have to deviate from their core business: CEC handles all the details pertaining to the solar array. And all energy generated from the solar array goes to the utility.

What separates CEC from other solar providers as it pertains to a utility?

Utilities and solar companies have typically struggled to mutually agree on the value of solar power. Conversely, CEC partners with the utility to provide community-owned solar to their customers at no capital cost to the utility and under a mutually agreeable power rate. Some utilities have said this is “too good to be true”; but that is the major differentiator with CEC. CEC handles everything associated with the solution. CEC’s solution was built by utilities for utilities.

How is CEC able to offer this to our utility with no capital expenditures?

CEC will pay all costs associated with building and maintaining the solar facility. This includes construction, marketing & sales, automatic on-bill credits with the utility’s billing system, ongoing administration and maintaining and operating the system. The utility’s financial commitment will involve purchasing the resulting power, commonly under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), via a credit on customer bills (handled through RemoteMeter, a proprietary software solution provided by CEC).

What is the co-branding option?

Should the utility choose to show the community their support for solar energy, CEC will brand the solar array under the utility’s name – at no cost. This will drive considerable positive PR to the utility and rightful appreciation from your customers. Many of our utilities note that they received more positive PR from the community solar program than they have had over their years in operation. CEC will handle the press and marketing and welcome your input. We also expect to work in concert with the utility to regularly get the great news out to your customers (bill stuffers, annual meetings, etc.).

What are the steps required to make this happen?

Yes. Customers will receive the tax credit on the tax return for the year in which their solar was placed in service.

  • Put a reasonable PPA in place to buy power at X rate (CEC works with the utility on the rate to customers)
  • CEC procures a site to build the solar facility (i.e., 4,000 panel facility with 250 W / panels
  • CEC sells panels to the customers at $X / W
  • RemoteMeter is set up to handle on-bill credits for customers
  • The utility gets the PR and the credit for the solar facility

How is billing handled?

We have found integration to utility billing systems to be very achievable and will be handled at no cost to the utility. RemoteMeter, a proprietary turn-key software solution created by CEC, integrates directly into the utility billing software to automatically calculate and apply the on-bill credits. All the integration is paid for by CEC and is entirely electronic. We simply need to get the IT staff talking to each other – this will not be a problem.

Which billing platform are you using?

Here are the ones CEC is already working with today:

  • iVue CIS by NISC
  • ATS
  • Southeastern Data Corp or SEDC
  • American Business Software, or ABS (not yet integrated, but well understood)

How does CEC make money?

CEC captures margin when the panels are sold to the customers to cover its investment, marketing and sales costs as well as a reasonable profit.

What kind of payback do members / rate payers get?

Paybacks typically range from 8 years to 15 years.

How does CEC handle installation of the panels?

CEC contracts with companies that specialize in building solar arrays. CEC also makes gives preference to the local labor force and selects the best possible product to install, especially as new technologies develop or certain types of panels are sold out, unavailable, etc.

Do customers buy or lease the panels?

The customers buy the panels and own them. They are an asset. CEC does not do leases as they typically make lease companies money, not the customers, leaving the customer with little for their money and no underlying asset. Customers have a physical piece of property that is recorded with a UCC filing with the state (a title or a deed for their solar panels). This property may be sold, moved to another meter, deeded to heirs, gifted to a church or charity of choice, transferred to another property, or passed on to the owners of the new house, as long as the panel ownership remains inside the utility’s network.

Does CEC use solar trackers or mirrors to focus the sun's light?

Complex arrays with moving parts are not currently used due to economics and long-term reliability. Many of these solutions are not as reliable over a longer term because they have moving parts and fragile components. CEC finds it most effective to use reliable panels from reputable companies facing, in most cases, solar south on mounted poles. This optimization provides the best price point for the customer to make the program successful and the system reliable.

What companies are used to purchase the PV panels?

Choosing a panel that lasts 50 years and beyond requires due diligence. We look at strength of the company, the warranty, the longevity of the company, and we look at their balance sheets to determine financial stability. The primary company we use is well divested and has been around for 40+ years (Hanwha). However, we do not have an exclusive vendor we use as we get better deals for the customers by getting competitive bids. CEC does not go for the lowest priced panel, but rather the best overall value.

What companies are used to purchase the inverters?

CEC is using Advanced Energy and Selectria for many of its current installations – both US made. The racking is also US made.

How are the tax credits handled for the purchased panels?

CEC claims the tax credit at a corporate level and passes the effective discount on to the customer upfront, lowering their net cost.

Describe the warranty for the panels?

CEC contractually maintain the panels for 2-times the manufacturer’s warranty period. Typical panels carry a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty, but CEC guarantees the majority of its solutions for 50 years. The reality is that solar panels have no moving parts and last a very long time even though their productivity degrades over the years. As an example, NASA has solar panels actively producing energy today that are 40 and 50 years old. But the utility and the customers need assurances that the panels will withstand the test of time. To that end, CEC guarantees that the panels will be properly cared for and maintained over the life of the array – if a catastrophic event destroys the array, it will be rebuilt under insurance coverage. If the inverter dies, it will be repaired or replaced. If a panel fails, it will be replaced. If the array is covered with snow or dust preventing it from producing energy, it will be cleaned. All of this is covered under the warranty without additional money from the utility or the customers. Furthermore, CEC contractually guarantees that the panels will not dip below 80% efficiency for the life of the solution. This is a very powerful point of consideration for both the utility and the customer – long-term, in-network, clean energy.

So the solar array is dismantled after 50 years because it's out of warranty?

No. You wouldn’t throw your car away just because it goes past the 100,000 mile warranty, right? The truth is that the array may last longer than 50 years. The goal is to keep it in operation and producing energy as long as it is financially viable to do so. As long as the array is more profitable (in the form of making clean power) than it costs to maintain, it will continue to operate. This may involve the renewal of a PPA with the utility provided it makes sense to do so, but there is no reason to throw the array out just because it is outside of its manufacturer’s warranty.

Doesn't the array become obsolete as new technology becomes available with PV panels? Why wouldn't you replace it?

It does not become obsolete. You wouldn’t tear down a 10-year old power plant just because newer technology is available for power plants, and the same is true with a solar array. The reality is that the solution will produce guaranteed results for the utility and its customers. They care about the electricity it generates, not the technology of solar panels used.

How does CEC afford to maintain the panels beyond the manufacturer's warranty period?

CEC maintains the array long-term and has financial contingencies in place to ensure this happens over the life of the solution. CEC generally takes $0.30/W of the upfront sales price and puts that in an escrow account on behalf of the customers. The money is to maintain the array over time for the customers. This includes insurance, cleaning, warranty repairs, breakdowns, etc. Additionally, CEC takes a portion of the power payment and puts it towards the escrow account. If the array produced 100 kWh in a given month, 5% would be deducted and paid towards the escrow account on behalf of the customers, with the remaining 95% credited directly to the customers.

What happens if CEC goes out of business?

Thanks to our initial utility partners, the entire solution is designed to run without dependence upon CEC. The array itself is set up under a separate LLC and exists as its own entity. The funds to maintain it are held in escrow for the customers and the LLC itself, not CEC. This escrow account is funded by a percentage of the initial purchase and a very small percentage of the ongoing power produced is also deposited into the account. If the array ever has problems, then the escrow account for the array handles all of the costs regardless of whether CEC is involved or not. If CEC goes out of business then CEC’s lawyers will simply appoint a new trustee of the escrow account.

CEC's utility partners can also choose to manage these funds from the beginning if desired, not CEC. As you ask yourself this question, please keep in mind that the following will be true once the solar facility is constructed:

  • The array is already built and set up
  • RemoteMeter, the on-bill crediting software, is already installed and running
  • The array is its own LLC and is funded with a devoted escrow account
  • The mechanisms are already in place to support the array for the utility community long-term
  • The utility receives the energy directly from the array

At this point in the process, CEC is not a critical part of the puzzle. Everything is already in place. Even if something catastrophic were to happen to CEC, our existing utility partners and our lawyers have created contingencies to ensure the array keeps running.

What if the panels don't all sell?

CEC does market research in advance of building an array to make sure the demographics and location will allow for a successful community solar program. This is done in partnership with the utility. Experience shows that the panels sell rather well. In fact, some of our facilities have sold out before they were even completed. Selling out an array is dependent on the size of the market. Based on our experience, approximately 1 out of every 100 people take advantage of this program. Businesses may purchase some of the panels; some customers may buy a single panel and others purchase enough to power half of their home. After nearly a dozen utilities and 4 years, CEC is not concerned about selling the panels. Note, however, that CEC bears all of the costs of building, marketing and selling the array. This alone demonstrates our confidence that the panels will sell out.

What size array does CEC recommend building for my utility?

It depends on the market research, but CEC recommends a system of at least 300 kW in size for most utilities. It is best to be larger than 500 kW to take advantage of optimal bulk pricing and to prevent customers from getting frustrated with limited availability. Remember, it only takes 200 customers who buy 2.5 kW each to fill out a 500 kW system. This solution will be available to homeowners, businesses, townhomes, apartments, nonprofits, etc. and will allow customers to purchase smaller units (a single panel). We always find the demand is higher than anticipated.

How long does it take to build the solar arrays?

The array itself routinely takes 30-90 days to construct. The entire process, including land use planning, permitting, design, engineering, etc. generally takes 90-180 days.

What is the smallest sized system CEC would consider installing?

Some utilities may ask about facilities that are around 20 kW & 40 kW which is extremely small. With systems of this size, it is not possible to leverage economies of scale for your customers and pre-development costs can be very high. For a utility with about 10,000 customers, CEC would generally target a size between 300 kW and 600 kW. A 300 kW system can be filled out with only 100 people if each person buys 3 kW each.

What rate should the utility use for the PPA?

Finding a reasonable rate for the utility and its customers is an important aspect of a successful community solar program. We will work with the utility to determine an appropriately balanced rate. It’s important to avoid too low of a rate which will result in an unsuccessful program and negative customer reactions due to a much longer customer payback. At the same time, the rate cannot be too high as that will not be fair to the utility, our partner.

What are the benefits for the member / rate payer?

  • Supporting renewable energy sources
  • A return on investment (exact % TBD, typically 5 – 8%)
  • A hedge against power inflation, fixing a portion of the customer’s power cost against inflating rates by purchase power-producing panels
  • Breakeven point = 8 - 15 years (target around 12 - 13 years)

How can the utility help make this program happen?

  • Work with CEC to establish a fair PPA
  • Include CEC in conversations with the Board & power provider, where applicable, to obtain any approvals
  • Help identify land that may be used for the solar array
  • Assist with marketing through bill stuffers, flyers

What are good locations for the community-owned solar solution?

  • Airports
  • Water treatment plants
  • County or city-owned land
  • Areas next to highways / interstates
  • Drainage sites
  • Contaminated sites
  • Underutilized land near a substation
  • Rural areas
  • Landfills

All areas must have good solar coverage (which CEC will research)

Who are you working with today that I may have heard of?

  • Holy Cross Energy, CO
  • Xcel Energy, CO
  • San Miguel Power Association, CO
  • Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association, CO
  • Colorado Springs Utilities, CO
  • Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, NM
  • Wright-Hennepin Electric, MN
  • Green Mountain Power, VT

What makes CEC qualified to speak to my solar needs?

CEC is the national leader within community solar with 18 facilities across 9 utilities and 4 states. As validated by NREL, the Department of Energy and the Institute of Local Self Reliance, CEC’s program is the best community solar solution in the nation and the only one noted as widely replicable. We are working with over 100 utilities across the nation and are well aware of the challenges you face with the adoption of a community solar program. We help you offer solar solutions to your customers, meet RPS requirements, and generate positive PR. CEC has spent several years and millions of dollars addressing securities laws, tax laws, ownership structures, consumer protections and on-bill crediting... community solar is all we do.

Simply put, we provide a complete turnkey solution, you provide the PPA and we provide everything else.

  • Funding (no capital cost to the utility)
  • Sales / Marketing
  • Support
  • Legal and Finance
  • Construction
  • Co-branding
  • Operations and Maintenance
  • Ongoing Program Administration
  • RemoteMeter (on-bill crediting)