NewEnergyNews: ORIGINAL REPORTING: Community Solar Offers An Even Better Deal

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    Wednesday, January 22, 2020

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Community Solar Offers An Even Better Deal

    Everyone loves a guaranteed discount: New financing approach drives community solar growth; Solar access is expanding through big utility builds, a new private sector approach and federal funding of pilot programs.

    Herman K. Trabish, Aug. 15, 2019 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: The complexities of administering programs continue to slow the progress of community solar.

    Community solar is transforming as promises of electricity bill savings, ambitious utility build-outs and business model innovations shift traditional approaches and drive growth. Florida Power and Light (FPL) is working to build the country's largest community solar project; a new "fixed discount" business model is creating savings certainty for customers that could eliminate longstanding private sector marketing challenges; and new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-backed approaches are reaching underserved customers.

    Project designs are diversifying as costs fall and developers find new ways to make larger-scale shared solar work. But challenges remain. Developers and utilities are building aggressively where they can, but many states lack comprehensive policies that prioritize community solar, advocates told Utility Dive. That could slow the market and keep innovations from becoming solutions.

    A community solar project must have "multiple subscribers" that receive monetary or kWh "on-bill benefits" that are "tied to a specific solar project," according to 2018's Community Solar Vision for 2030 from the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) and Vote Solar. There was 1.34 GW of community solar online in June 2019, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) data. About 67% of total capacity has been built by private sector developers, and the rest by utility-led projects, according to Smart Electric Power Alliance's (SEPA) 2019 report.

    The potential market includes electricity customers without solar-suitable roofs, or without the financial status or inclination to contract for or own rooftop solar, according to NREL. There could be 3 GW online by 2020 and potentially 57 GW to 84 GW in 2030, adding as much as $121 billion to the economy, according to the Vision study. Expansion of state policies is the key to growth, according to energy policywatchers told Utility Dive... click here for more

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