ORIGINAL REPORTING: Next Generation Utility-Led Community Solar Is Emerging
Utilities take note: Next generation utility-led community solar is emerging; Flexible subscriptions and solar-plus plans “push the envelope” of utility programs
Herman K. Trabish, Oct. 16, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The newest community solar numbers show two things – that the sector is booming and that utilities are still dragging their feet.
Utility-led community solar has not yet seen the skyrocketing growth its advocates promised a few years ago, but the newest numbers hint at a boom and a new generation of projects is emerging that could show the way to new possibilities. The industry is still innovating and the business model is evolving, energy consultant Jill Cliburn, project manager for the Department of Energy-backed Community Solar Value Project, told Utility Dive. At the end of 2017, there were at least 228 utilities in 36 states with-led community solar programs. They contributed to a total community solar online capacity of 734 MW, according to the most recent Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) count. That represents a 112% year-on-year growth. Community solar offers a form of solar ownership to the almost 50% of residential and small business customers estimated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to not have solar suitable roofs. That could amount to between 32% and 49% of the projected 2020 overall distributed solar market and represent between $8.2 billion and $16.3 billion in cumulative investment.
Growth is coming from IOUs, munis, and co-ops. Deb Roepke, manager of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) SunShot program, told Utility Dive co-ops have moved beyond small one-off projects of a few hundred kW by distribution co-ops. Utilities looking for ways to deliver community solar to new customer segments are also expanding the market. New York IOU Consolidated Edison, and California’s Imperial Irrigation District (IID), a public power utility, are making community solar available to low and moderate income customers. Utilities are also exploring ways community solar can serve their systems as well as their customers. California’s Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is developing projects that will be paired with electric vehicle charging and grid services… click here for more