Solar Today Spring 2016 : Page 14

community solar hub The Birth of Community Solar by Rebecca Langton, Clean Energy Collective work in the solar industry and manage a website that promotes community-owned solar programs, so I talk to people every day about their desire to see communities become more reliant on clean energy and less dependent on fossil fuel sources. The solar developers that contact me through the Community Solar Hub website, a project done in partnership between the Department of Energy and Clean Energy Collective, are all very passionate about what they do --providing solar energy to homeowners and businesses, offering savings on their electricity bills, and enhancing environmental benefits that could stretch across generations. Solar professionals, including utilities, recognize the potential community-owned solar has to reach more households and businesses, including low-income and non-profit utility customers. They see that the community-owned solar concept is moving from obscure to mainstream and want to be part of bringing more clean energy options to more people. The community solar ownership model began when the founder of Clean Energy Collective had an idea to build a community-owned array to be used specifically by his Homeowners Association and neighbors. Then he had the realization that this idea could be scaled to the surrounding community and the entire utility network, benefiting more people. The “Aha” moment came when he realized that through larger scale application and by partnering with utilities, the nation’s clean energy goals can be met faster. Of course this concept did not arrive without its fair share of hurdles and opposition. There was resistance from local permitting officials. There were legal, tax, and securities complexities that needed to be addressed. Once all resistances and complexities to the idea were identified, time and money were invested into coming up with solutions. Software was developed that allowed production from the array to be gathered and reported, allowing credits to be applied to customer billing statements. Securities and tax issues were addressed in well-crafted proposal and contract I documents. Once solutions were established for these complex issues, it was time to engage utility stakeholders in this concept. A small cooperative, Holy Cross Electric, was interested in the idea and willing to participate in a pilot program. That first program went online in 2010 and was sized at 78 kW. Fast forward to 2016 and Holy Cross now has 4 community-owned solar programs online totaling 3.5 MW of community solar production for their customers. Most solar developers that are curious about community-owned solar programs recognize the obstacles involved in replicating this program. Most within the solar industry share the same principles and goals. Most talk about PV panels and kilowatt hours because solar energy in large scale application is what is needed to reach more consumers and speed along the adoption of clean energy options from electric providers. Most ideas start small and often face countless roadblocks and resistance from any number of directions. Perseverance, focus, dedication, collaboration, and the ability to dream big is what was required at the early concepts of community-owned solar, and is what is needed now from solar professionals who want to enter this growing marketplace. Pilot programs with utilities of all sizes exist, along with the tools and information needed to be successful. The tools and information located on the Community Solar Hub website are there to help more solar enthusiasts and professionals understand how these programs work, what partnerships are necessary to get a program under development, and where these programs are located within the United States. The goals of solar professionals and the Hub alike are to replicate successful programs, make solar energy available to more people, and accomplish our national clean energy goals sooner rather than later. ST Stay tuned for regular updates from the Community Solar Hub in SOLAR TODAY. For more information, visit www.communitysolarhub.com. 14 SPRING 2016 SOLAR TODAY Copyright © 2014 American Solar Energy Society. All rights reserved.

Community Solar Hub

Rebecca Langton


The Birth of Community Solar

I work in the solar industry and manage a website that promotes community-owned solar programs, so I talk to people every day about their desire to see communities become more reliant on clean energy and less dependent on fossil fuel sources. The solar developers that contact me through the Community Solar Hub website, a project done in partnership between the Department of Energy and Clean Energy Collective, are all very passionate about what they do -- providing solar energy to homeowners and businesses, offering savings on their electricity bills, and enhancing environmental benefits that could stretch across generations.

Solar professionals, including utilities, recognize the potential community-owned solar has to reach more households and businesses, including low-income and nonprofit utility customers. They see that the community-owned solar concept is moving from obscure to mainstream and want to be part of bringing more clean energy options to more people.

The community solar ownership model began when the founder of Clean Energy Collective had an idea to build a community-owned array to be used specifically by his Homeowners Association and neighbors. Then he had the realization that this idea could be scaled to the surrounding community and the entire utility network, benefiting more people. The “Aha” moment came when he realized that through larger scale application and by partnering with utilities, the nation’s clean energy goals can be met faster.

Of course this concept did not arrive without its fair share of hurdles and opposition. There was resistance from local permitting officials. There were legal, tax, and securities complexities that needed to be addressed. Once all resistances and complexities to the idea were identified, time and money were invested into coming up with solutions. Software was developed that allowed production from the array to be gathered and reported, allowing credits to be applied to customer billing statements. Securities and tax issues were addressed in well-crafted proposal and contract documents.

Once solutions were established for these complex issues, it was time to engage utility stakeholders in this concept. A small cooperative, Holy Cross Electric, was interested in the idea and willing to participate in a pilot program. That first program went online in 2010 and was sized at 78 kW. Fast forward to 2016 and Holy Cross now has 4 community-owned solar programs online totaling 3.5 MW of community solar production for their customers.

Most solar developers that are curious about community owned solar programs recognize the obstacles involved in replicating this program. Most within the solar industry share the same principles and goals. Most talk about PV panels and kilowatt hours because solar energy in large scale application is what is needed to reach more consumers and speed along the adoption of clean energy options from electric providers.

Most ideas start small and often face countless roadblocks and resistance from any number of directions. Perseverance, focus, dedication, collaboration, and the ability to dream big is what was required at the early concepts of community-owned solar, and is what is needed now from solar professionals who want to enter this growing marketplace. Pilot programs with utilities of all sizes exist, along with the tools and information needed to be successful.

The tools and information located on the Community Solar Hub website are there to help more solar enthusiasts and professionals understand how these programs work, what partnerships are necessary to get a program under development, and where these programs are located within the United States. The goals of solar professionals and the Hub alike are to replicate successful programs, make solar energy available to more people, and accomplish our national clean energy goals sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned for regular updates from the Community Solar Hub in SOLAR TODAY. For more information, visit www.communitysolarhub.com.

Read the full article at http://www.omagdigital.com/article/Community+Solar+Hub/2475728/301010/article.html.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here