It’s an example of a fairly new concept in solar power: the community solar garden. Community solar is when a group of residents take energy from a solar array through virtual net metering without having panels installed on their rooftops. Instead, the panels can be nearby on carports or miles away in a formerly vacant lot.
In the case of the Clarendon Street Apartments, formerly known as Villa Garcia public housing complex, the power generated from the carport solar array goes straight to the grid and the complex gets credit for it to use against electricity bills. The 182 kW system consists of 72 panels, monitors usage in each of the complex’s 80 units, and is estimated to save $48,000 annually.
Through forward thinking, this low-income housing complex is now being helped to fix costs and save money by acquiring energy from the sun, impacting the community and tax-paying supporters for years to come.The solar project is one part of a plan that gave new life to this formerly foreclosed federal housing complex. New roofs, floors, plumbing, electrical and landscaping were also installed. With abundant sunshine in San Jose, the project should see a return on investment quickly.
For this project, we used solar arrays that integrate innovative micro-inverter technology, which means a disruption on one solar panel from a bit of shade, debris or snow won’t diminish the output of the whole system. With conventional central inverters, when one panel is compromised, the whole array’s output is affected.
The Clarendon Street Apartments project is a great example of how solar isn’t just for homeowners who can afford the upfront expenses. We’d like to thank Josiah Denmark of the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara for spearheading this project and thinking creatively about how to use community solar and net metering in his community.