Community Solar FAQ
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How does the Community Solar program work?
As Westar Energy looks forward to the future of energy in Kansas, it is important that we continue to develop programs and renewable energy options that fit our customer’s interests. Community Solar from Westar is a program that allows you to support solar energy generation without having the hassle of installing solar panels where you live or work…all while having economic stability over the long term for the solar energy you purchase.
- You can purchase a portion of the energy generated by Community Solar at a fixed rate for the 20-year life of the program, the minimum of five years, or anywhere in between.
- The solar energy system is divided into shares, each share generating about 150 kWh/month (or about 15% of the average residential customer’s usage).
- You can purchase as many shares as your average usage allows.
- The rate you pay for your solar shares is fixed, which means as standard electricity rates can fluctuate from year to year, the price you pay for your solar shares will never go up.
- The overall impact to an average residential bill will be about a $10-$12 increase per share, for businesses and churches, the impact on your bill will be about $15 more per share.
For example, if you use 1000 kWh/month and decide to purchase one share from Community Solar, your portion of the system will generate about 150 kWh/month. 150 kWh will be billed at the community solar rate and the remaining energy you use (1000 - 150 = 850 kWh) will be billed at your standard rate. While the standard rate may change over time, the portion of your energy that comes from the community solar program will be fixed for the term of your participation in the system (up to 20 years).
How can I sign up?
Please visit WestarEnergy.com/CommunitySolar or login to your Westar Energy account at www.westarenergy.com.
Who is eligible to participate?
All Westar customers with accounts in good standing are eligible to participate.
How many kW shares can I sign up for?
One share (1 kW) will generate about 150 kWh per month. The generation of your shares should never be more than the amount used during the month of your lowest usage. For example, if 700 kWh is your lowest usage in the last 12 months, four shares (600 kWh) would be the maximum you should sign up for; however, you can sign up for as little as one share (about 150 kWh). After you submit your request to participate, we will review the amount of shares you want to purchase and contact you if you have signed up for too many shares according to your usage history, and your number of shares will be adjusted accordingly.
What is the participation period?
The minimum participation period is five years. You may participate up to the full 20 years of the program and enjoy the price stability for this full period.
Do I have to live in the same city as the solar field?
No, there is no geographic restriction on participation as long as you live within Westar’s service territory.
What if the system is sold out and I want to participate?
Westar will maintain a wait list of interested customers. If space becomes available, Westar will notify you and you will have two weeks to register for the program. You can notify Westar at any time if you would like to be removed from the wait list.
What if I decide I don’t want to participate anymore or if I want to reduce my shares?
Because you pay a premium for the power now for the benefit of price stability over time, you should have a greater benefit the longer you participate in the program. However, you can choose to leave the community solar program or decrease the amount of shares you have any time after the first five years. Participation is for a minimum of five years unless you leave Westar territory. If you leave the program your shares will be added back to the pool; they are not transferable.
Can I increase my shares after I sign up?
If your usage levels allow for more shares and there are available shares remaining, you may purchase more. If there are no shares available, you can be added to a waiting list and when more are available we will contact you.
What if I move within Westar territory?
You will carry your program subscription with you anywhere in Westar’s territory.
What happens if my monthly energy usage drops below the level of my subscription?
If your energy usage drops, we will lower the amount of your subscription to match your new usage. Your number of shares will be adjusted. You will not be refunded for the premium payments you made up to this point.
How will this appear on my bill?
All customers have a basic service fee on their bill as well as a variable charge for the amount of energy used. The basic service fee will remain on your bill. The energy use portion of your bill will be divided into two parts: one covered by the community solar charge for the portion you select, and the remainder billed at the standard rate (which is currently about 11c/kWh for residential customers).
Business customers will also continue to see a demand charge and any other applicable charges, such as power factor costs. Small business and church customers will receive a 150 watt credit per share towards their demand.
What is "demand" on a business or church bill?
A measurement in kilowatts (kW) of the greatest amount of electricity used in a 15-minute period during the billing period. You may be able to lower your demand and your demand costs by spreading equipment startups over a longer period of time.
How much can I expect my bill to increase?
The cost per share (1 kW) for a residential customer is $29.63. After your fixed portion is subtracted from your usage and calculated separately the impact on your bill will be an increase of about $10 per share (1 kW) at current rates. This may decrease over time as regular rates increase and the community solar portion of your bill remains flat.
The estimated cost for an average household to receive about 15 percent of their electricity from the solar field would be about an additional $10 per month. A subscription to 1 kW of solar energy would provide an average of about 150 kWh of energy per month with a residential customer program cost of $29.63 that would be offset by savings from avoiding other fuel and energy costs on their bill. Program costs vary for other rate classes. For small business and church customers, the bill impact is estimated to be an additional $15 per month for the average customer.
When can I expect to see this appear on my bill?
For new customers, it just depends where your sign-up hits on the billing cycle; it usually will be the next month but could be two months later.
Is it possible the cost per kW will decrease?
Not for customers subscribed to the current 1.2 MW solar garden. However, if we build future community solar gardens and the prices to build are less than this one, the cost per kW may be less.
What is the fixed portion on my bill, will it be the same every month?
Your fixed portion will be almost the same every month. However, your share of the solar field will generate more in some months and less in others, just like solar systems on a rooftop. This variation will be reflected in the fixed price portion of your bill. Solar panels also degrade slightly over time so you may notice a slight drop in total energy generated over the life of your program participation.
Is there an administrative program fee to sign up for this program?
No. There is no fee to register for this program.
When did Westar’s Community Solar program begin?
The project went online in June of 2017. This community solar program is the first for Westar and our customers. Westar customers have expressed an interest in supporting renewable energy generation in our local communities. However, many people are unable to put solar on their own homes. This Community Solar program will allow customers to support the growth of renewable energy without having to manage the installation at their place of residence.
What happens to the renewable energy credits (RECs) for this solar system?
The RECs generated from this system will be retired on behalf of the participants.
Does participation in this program qualify me as a net metering or parallel generation customer?
While this program is similar to net metering, you will not be considered a net metering or parallel generation customer as a participant in this program.
Is the renewable energy I support through the Community Solar project delivered directly to my home?
The power from renewable energy sources is mixed with the power from conventional generation sources in Westar’s transmission and distribution system. It may not necessarily be delivered directly to your home. However, your contribution to the renewable energy will support renewable energy generation overall and have an environmental impact throughout the entire system. By participating in Community Solar, you are supporting the bigger initiative of green energy in Kansas.
Who should I contact if I have questions about this program?
Please direct all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 316.299.7425.