Shared/Community Solar

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About

“Community shared solar” is generally defined as a solar-electric system that provides power and/or financial benefit to multiple community members. A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found projects like these could lead to cumulative U.S. PV deployment growth of 5.5 GW to 11 GW between 2015 and 2020. There are a number of different models or approaches for developing a community solar project, including:

  • Virtual Net Metering via State-level Legislation Model: States legislate that utilities must provide customers with the option of virtual net metering, with implementation varying between states. 
  • Utility-Sponsored Model: A utility owns or operates a project that is open to voluntary ratepayer participation. Examples include:
    • Tucson Electric Power- Bright Tucson Program, a program in which utility customers purchase solar power in "blocks" of 150 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month. Customers can buy some or all of their power through the program, reducing or eliminating their energy use from conventional resources.
    • Farmers Electric Cooperative’s Solar Garden Program, Located in Kalona, IA, the cooperative invites its customers to buy part of a “solar garden” located at its main office building in exchange for a reduction on their monthly bill. 
  • Special Purpose Entity (SPE) Model: Individuals join in a business enterprise to develop a community shared solar project. Examples include:
  • Nonprofit Model: A charitable nonprofit corporation administers a community shared solar project on behalf of donors or members. Examples include:
    • Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit that helps multi-family apartment buildings go solar and allow residents to save money on their utility bills. 
    • DC Solar United Neighborhoods, a coalition of neighborhood solar coops that organize neighborhood solar bulk purchases to help neighbors save money and navigate the installation process.

Resources

  • Vote Solar
    • A non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change, Vote Solar helps communities adopt policies that support shared solar projects. Their shared solar policy toolkit is an excellent resource.
  • Shared Renewables HQ
    • An information center for shared renewable energy projects and policies across the U.S. Allows you to view policies by state and tracks shared renewable energy projects around the country.
  • DOE Guide to Community Shared Solar
    • A resource for those who want to develop community shared solar projects, from community organizers or solar energy advocates to government officials or utility managers.
  • IREC Community Renewables Model Program Rules
    • A guide from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council that outlines model program rules for community-scale renewables.
  • Community Shared Solar: Review and Recommendations for Massachussets Models
    •  A resource guide that identifies and assesses the barriers and opportunities of implementing Community Shared Solar projects in Massachusetts.
  • Community Power Network
    • A network of grassroots organizations that promote community-based renewable energy projects and policies. Our website includes resources on how to start a project, advocate for policies, or connect with existing groups in your community. 
  • Solar Gardens Institute
    • An organization dedicated to helping communities pool their resources and go solar. Their website includes a map of shared projects and organizations around the country.