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Community Shared Solar

Monday, July 9, 2012

What do you do when you want to benefit from the savings of a solar PV system, but you don’t qualify for one reason or another? It may be that your roof is not suitable due to shading, building ownership, or structure. It may be that you live in an apartment building where your roof is another resident’s floor. Whatever the case may be, there is now a way to participate in the savings and environmental benefit that solar power has to offer. It’s called Community Solar and is based in the mindset of community based development.

NREL (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) recently published A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private and Nonprofit Development. The guide is aimed at community organizers or solar energy advocates who want to develop Community Solar programs. They clearly outline the range of incentives and policies in place and provide examples of successful local energy projects for inspiration.

Photo source Vote Solar

The NREL guide explains that there are three main ways a community solar plan can be structured. Taken directly from the guide, they are:

  1. Utility sponsored model: The utility owns or operates a project that is open to voluntary ratepayer participation.
  2. Special Purpose Entity (SPE) Model: Individual investors join in a business enterprise to develop a community solar project.
  3. Non-Profit Model: A charitable non-profit corporation administers a community solar project on behalf of donors or members.

Using the guide as a resource, planners can determine which model suits the needs of their community. With interest in these programs gaining momentum, some recent policies that encourage community solar include: group billing, virtual net metering, and joint ownership. So if you’ve been wanting to get involved in the hawaii solar revolution but are held back by a roof that doesn’t qualify, there is another way to start saving. Get your community involved and develop a community solar plan!

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