As residents report increasing mail and phone calls about buying into community solar farms, state officials offer resources to make sure they know who they are dealing with, while still taking advantage of renewable energy and possible savings on electric bills.

Officials at the state Department of Public Service (DPS) say community solar projects, referred to as Distributed Energy Resource providers (DERs), are an important part of the state’s clean energy plans.

“Distributed clean energy resources are critical to building an energy system that will meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal target of 70 percent clean and renewable energy in New York by 2030,” John D. Chirlin, of the DPS Office of Public Affairs, says.

But Chirlin said this doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping a close eye on the industry.

“As these new energy resources help create a cleaner and more resilient power system here in New York, the Department is focused on ensuring that consumers are protected from potential fraud and unscrupulous contract provisions, aiding consumers while ensuring the integrity of this burgeoning market,” he says.

One of the key steps made by DPS is certifying each DER solar company doing business in the state, including reviewing the contracts they will use with customers.

DER provides sample contracts and marketing materials to the Department of Public Service to determine compliance with the Commission’s approved Uniform Business Practices for Distributed Energy Resource Suppliers. Once the materials are found in compliance, the provider is authorized to market in New York as a registered provider and is listed on the Department’s web page.

Find the list of certified companies at http://documents.dps.ny.gov/PTC/der.

“Any company that is marketing to customers that does not appear on this list is in violation of Commission order, and their materials have not been reviewed by (our) staff,” he added.

More information about the community solar business and how it operates can be found at www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/NY-Sun/Solar-for-Your-Home/Community-Solar.

While there is not a single, approved way to connect a solar company, a utility provider and a customer, there is a general guideline for how the system should ideally work.

“Typically, a Community Distributed Generation (CDG) provider will bill a customer a subscription fee to participate in the program, the utility will credit the customer based on the generation from the solar farm and the CDG provider will bill the customer for their use less the percentage of those credits,” Chirlin says.

If the solar provider is unable to resolve an issue, consumers can contact the Department’s consumer helpline at or on the web using the online complaint form.

The online complaint form is located at www3.dps.ny.gov/ocs/itgate.nsf/(webDPS_welcome)?OpenForm.