Aerial view of apartment building with solar panels.

A Renter’s Guide To Solar Panels For Apartments

Jan 17, 2023

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If you’re a renter interested in shrinking your carbon footprint or your electricity bill, you might not realize that solar panels for apartments are an option. Let’s explore what you should know about going solar when you live in an apartment building.

Convince Your Landlord To Go Solar

As a renter, you’re limited in what you can change on the property you occupy, including environmental upgrades like adding solar panels. But, you could try to convince your landlord to install solar panels.

Solar arrays are known to increase property value, which might pique a landlord’s interest. Installing solar panels could also attract more tenants.

It’s also possible your landlord could make additional income from solar, depending on the local utility company’s net metering policies, and how much they qualify for with incentives such as tax credits.

SRECs Offer A Viable Alternative To Apartment Solar

Unfamiliar with solar renewable energy credits (SRECs)? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines an SREC as representing “the property rights to the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation.” You can earn an SREC for one megawatt-hour of electricity generated from a solar energy source.

Utility companies buy the majority of SRECs, often from homeowners with solar panel installations. But anyone can purchase SRECs to show their support for renewable energy. 

Renters unable to convince a landlord to install solar panels might consider SRECs, which vary greatly in price depending on the market. You might be able to purchase SRECs from your local utility company or an intermediary such as SRECTrade.com.

You can learn more by reading the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Guide to Purchasing Green Power.

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Portable Solar Panel Systems For Apartments Have Caveats

Numerous portable solar panel options are available, including “plug-in solar panels” that aim to simplify generating clean energy. The concept: Get a plug-in solar kit, put the panels in the right place, plug the system into an open outlet in your home and watch your electric bill decrease.

Plug-in solar panel systems do have limits, however, including how much power a single outlet can handle and whether the system can handle power fluctuations throughout the day. You should also explore any regulations that might govern your area before investing in this type of system.

Another Option For Portable Solar Panels

While plug-in solar might not be workable, portable solar panels that work for job sites or outdoor recreation could be an option. These panels can easily charge laptop computers, cell phones and other small electronic devices. While the savings here is likely a relatively small amount of your monthly electric bill, any money saved by reducing your grid energy usage can add up.

Plus, you’re making strides to limit your dependence on fossil fuels.

Community Solar Is A Smart Option For Renters

Community solar – also known as shared solar or solar gardens – allows people and organizations to buy or lease a portion of the panels in an off-site solar installation. According to the DOE, community solar customers “typically receive an electric bill credit for electricity generated by their share of the community solar system – similar to someone who has rooftop panels installed on their home.”

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported that 39 states and Washington, D.C. have working community solar projects. Nearly three quarters of those projects are based in Florida, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts.

Solar gardens can stabilize your energy costs and make solar more accessible to lower-income renters and homeowners. As a renter, your primary challenge will be organizing other renters in your community and convincing them of the benefits.

FAQs: Solar Panels For Renters

Here are a few questions that apartment dwellers often ask about solar power systems for apartments.

Are solar panels good for apartment buildings?

Solar panels can be a great benefit to residents interested in lowering their electric bills and emissions. But rooftop solar isn’t often an option for renters. Their best options might be community solar gardens or showing support by buying solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), which are sometimes called solar renewable energy certificates.

Is solar worth it for an apartment?

Renters can potentially save money on utility bills with solar panels. The results depend on how the landlord or community implements solar, as well as the local utility company’s policies and incentives.

Can I install solar panels on my apartment balcony?

It’s possible to install solar panels on your apartment balcony, but it’s unlikely you’ll have the space or infrastructure to generate much power. If you can generate enough power to charge smaller appliances like smartphones, cameras and laptop computers, the long-term savings could add up.

The Bottom Line: There Are Solar Options For Renters

While renters don’t enjoy the same freedom as homeowners to install and own solar panels, it’s still possible to use solar while living in an apartment. You might convince a landlord to install solar panels, organize residents to adopt community solar or buy SRECs. Each option offers a chance to lower energy bills and help combat climate change.

Considering homeownership but want to invest in a home that’s suitable for solar? Discover what makes a home good for solar panels!

 

Rocket Solar does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

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