Community solar received a big boost this past week when the White House announced it will be launching the National Community Solar Partnership dedicated to providing access to solar energy to households and businesses that are not able to install solar systems. The plan sets a goal of installing 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing and dedicates more $520 million in funding from private and public sources to ensure community solar projects are established for low- and moderate-income households.
Despite the rapid growth of solar installments in the past four years, nearly 50 percent of all households and businesses remain locked out of this type of renewable energy. Installing solar panels is not an option for many people for numerous reasons, including rooftop orientation, shade issues or simply because they do not own their own property. With community solar arrays, also referred to as solar farms or solar gardens, everyone in the community has the opportunity to participate in a renewable energy program.
A community solar garden provides electricity that is shared by more than one household. The energy is delivered by a centralized photovoltaic (PV) power facility and is developed by either a third party or a local utility, who maintains the system. The public is offered an option to enroll in the program by the local utility company and participants pay a lower price for their electricity.
According to a recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analysis, shared solar could account for 32 to 49 percent of the distributed solar market in 2020, representing $8.2–$16.3 billion of cumulative investment.
What are the benefits of Community Solar?
1 – Community solar allows anyone to “go solar” without installing panels on their rooftop or property.
2 – Solar projects create and sustain local jobs. Nationally, the solar industry employs nearly 175,000 Americans and generates nearly $20 billion a year toward the U.S. economy.1 The White House plan will expand training programs and provide funding through AmeriCorps to create jobs in low-income communities.
3 – Solar provides enough clean electricity to power 4 million homes.1
4 – The solar industry is helping our environment by displacing an estimated 20 million metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to removing 4 million cars off U.S. roads.1 1Johnson, Ken. “Critics Twist Truth in Campaign to Kill Solar Energy Industry” Solar Energy Industries Association, Blog, 23 March 2015.
Greentech Media reviewed the current status of community solar around the country and found there 24 states with at least one project in operation. California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota are on track to install the majority of the projects in the next two years.