About 50% of U.S. residents are not great candidates for rooftop solar. They may live in an apartment, they may have a very shaded roof, or they may have a very small electric bill. The best option for these people may be some kind of shared solar power system. Community Solar, or Solar Gardens, is a great solution for this segment of the population.
Community Solar installations must be fairly large in order to support the electrical needs of dozens or even thousands of customers. With Utility Owned installations, the energy is sold by the local utility, usually at a markup so the utility can make a profit; nevertheless, customers benefit from clean energy. With Private or Special Purpose Entity installations, an independent private company is created to develop and manage the project. Owners of the company may get a share of energy from system, or just profit from the energy sales. With Non-Profit installations, the system is developed and owned by a non-profit entity in which all the costs and benefits are shared.
Virtual Net Metering is an innovation that has the potential to accelerate the deployment of Community Solar systems. With VNM a group of people share the output of the system, getting bill credits equal to their share of ownership.
25 states already have operating Community Solar installations — with many more projects in the pipeline. As the complexity with Virtual Net Metering and ownership structures are standardized, costs for electricity delivered from Community Solar will no doubt be reduced. So Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World to learn about the advantages, limitations and challenges of deploying Community Solar throughout the U.S.