It is estimated that more than 50% of American households can’t install solar at home for reasons such as shade, structural issues, or roof pitch. But through community solar, everyone has the opportunity to access the benefits of solar power, and ISC is tapping into the knowledge of the solar industry to bring community solar information to you.
Communities across the country are strategizing about how to deploy more renewable energy, wondering how to expand the number of solar energy users, and trying to make solar affordable and accessible to more people. Community solar can help open doors for such communities.
The community solar concept, as defined by NREL, means that a solar electricity system, through a voluntary program, provides power and/or financial benefits to, or is jointly owned by, multiple community members. Over the past year, ISC has deeply explored the potential of community solar through our role in the National Community Solar Partnership. This partnership, led by the U.S. Department of Energy, brought together more than 100 partners from the industry, nonprofits, academia, and government in an effort to accelerate the implementation of community solar. ISC helped to coordinate the effort and organized four regional workshops around the country. This was an incredible opportunity to see firsthand how community solar was unfolding in each region – to see success stories like:
- ReVolv’s crowdfunding platform for community solar
- Grand Valley Electric Utility’s program for low-income customers
- Rural Renewable Energy Alliance’s work to install the first community solar project on tribal lands in Minnesota
Community solar is not a panacea. There are lots of challenges to overcome, but the more we learn about the opportunities and innovation happening around the country, the more we see community solar as an important tool to accelerate community transitions to clean energy.
This fall we’re anticipating an exciting opportunity for local governments and organizations interested in advancing community solar in their communities. The Department of Energy recently solicited feedback for a potential “Community Solar Challenge.” Through this challenge, communities may have the opportunity to pursue community solar projects and programs, while gaining access to funding and technical assistance. We’ll be watching and helping to spread the word when they launch the program.
In the meantime, we know that getting started with community solar can be daunting. That’s why in the coming months we’ll be putting out a series of resources via our Solar Market Pathways project to help get you started. This will include community solar case studies and a comprehensive toolkit featuring the best resources on planning, financing, and implementing projects. If your community is interested in community solar, we encourage you to check out these resources and contact us if you need ideas about how you might get started!