Leading utility-scale solar company First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) announced Wednesday that it is entering the residential solar market. First Solar invested an undisclosed sum in Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective (CEC) to become its largest investor after CEC management. The two companies will develop community solar projects. It will allow residential customers as well as businesses to use solar without installing panels on their roofs.

First Solar, Inc. Enters Residential Solar Market

First Solar CEO to join CEC board

Two First Solar executives, including CEO Jim Hughes, will join CEC’s board. It’s the Tempe-based company’s first major foray in the residential solar market. Community solar projects are relatively larger solar plants that allow people to buy blocks of the electricity they produce. Moreover, it’s more cost effective to build large solar plants than rooftop solar arrays.

Community solar projects will allow the Arizona company to target the residential market while remaining focused on its core business of utility-scale projects. Even those who don’t have suitable roofs or those who rent or live in apartments can buy solar electricity from CEC’s projects. These are usually installed on the ground close to the neighborhood or town they serve.

First Solar sees a huge opportunity in community solar projects

When you pay for a portion of electricity produced from community solar projects, energy won’t be shipped directly to your home. The electricity produced goes into the grid, and people who pay for a block of energy or own a stake in the project will see it reflected on their utility bills. Plus, they earn state-level renewable energy credits. First Solar and CEC said that they plan to install projects and market electricity to residential as well as business customers on behalf of utilities.

First Solar sees a huge opportunity for community solar projects. The company estimates that only 20-25% of the U.S. homes are suitable for rooftop panels because of the financial position of the homeowner, the direction the homes face and shade trees. Jim Hughes said the total market size for community solar is “significantly larger than rooftop solar market.”