On this website, Community Solar is defined as a solar-electric system that, through a voluntary program, provides power and/or financial benefit to, or is owned by, multiple community members. Community Solar advocates are driven by the recognition that the on-site solar market comprises only one part of the total market for solar energy. A 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that only 22 to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system after adjusting for structural, shading, or ownership issues.
Clearly, community options are needed to expand access to solar power for renters, those with shaded roofs, and those who choose not to install a residential system on their home for financial or other reasons. Fairness also supports expanding programs in ways that increase options for participation. As a group, ratepayers and/ or taxpayers fund solar incentive programs. Accordingly, as a matter of equity, solar energy programs should be designed in a manner that allows all contributors to participate.
This website focuses on projects designed to increase access to solar energy and to reduce up-front costs for participants. The secondary goals met by many Community Solar projects include:
- Improved economies of scale
- Optimal project siting
- Increased public understanding of solar energy
- Generation of local jobs
- Opportunity to test new models of marketing, project financing and service delivery
Visit the Solar Case Studies page for examples of Community Solar projects.
Creative mechanisms to foster greater deployment of solar energy projects are not limited to those described above. The following efforts also employ some elements of community solar:
- Bulk purchasing efforts in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA (Solarize programs) and nationwide (1BOG)
- Solar services co-ops such as Cooperative Community Energy, CA
- Utility-owned distributed generation on customer rooftops, such as the Arizona Public Service Community Power Project
A great resource for community solar is the free document: A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private and Non-profit Project Development.