ORIGINAL REPORTING: How utility collaboration can cut community solar costs up to 40%
How utility collaboration can cut community solar costs up to 40%; A new brief from the Rocky Mountain Institute reveals lessons from its field work in supporting shared solar development.
Herman K. Trabish, March 28, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Watch for community solar to jump in 2017 and beyond.
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), one of the best-known energy think tanks in the U.S., is working to open new market opportunities for utilities and customers in the community shared solar sector. RMI Manager Joseph Goodman left a position in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot program for the opportunity to show community-based organizations, rural electric cooperatives and public and investor-owned utilities how to deploy community solar installations at prices up to 40% lower than installations today. RMI’s just-released Insight Brief, Community-Scale Solar; Why Developers and Buyers Should Focus On This High-Potential Market Segment, provides a formula for scaling community solar based on the analysts' actual experiences in the marketplace.
The RMI brief redefines the market as community-scale solar, which is all 500 kW to 5 MW solar installations on the distribution systems. Like utility-scale solar, the per-kWh cost of community solar is lower than rooftop systems because it is big enough to have economies of scale and can be built with lower-cost standardized power blocks. That also makes it easier to finance. But like distributed solar, it can be near or co-located with load, reducing line losses and easing interconnection. It also can be sited on lower-cost, easier to permit community-owned land and it can strengthen local grid resilience around those sites. Uniquely, it allows buyers and sellers to cooperate in building it, which can reduce the price as much as 40%, and it can include as participants renters, those without solar-suitable roofs, and low-to-moderate-income (LMI) utility customers... click here for more