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‘Shared’ Community Solar Ready for Day in Sun

MrRenewables/wikimedia commons
MrRenewables/wikimedia commons

‘Shared’ solar photovoltaic arrays could satisfy demand for a ‘just right’ Goldilocks option the combines the benefits of utility-scale installations and individual residential rooftops, analysts say.

In “community or ‘shared’ solar,” the Washington Post reports, “multiple people get electricity from a mid-sized solar array on the top of, say, a condo building, or in a lot centred in a community.” The arrangement benefits “people living in more densely populated cities, who may not own the roofs over their heads or who may not have the best credit,” the newspaper reports. It allows them to participate in the savings and potential profit from the transition to solar, with lower financial and technical hurdles.

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Not all such projects are collectively owned—by a community or condo corporation, for example. Utilities are also beginning to package shared solar installations with other offerings like new, efficient water heaters.

Only two shared solar projects existed in the United States in 2010, the Deloitte consultancy found in a recent study. By 2015, 77 utilities were administering 111 projects in more than half the states, with a combined capacity of 106 megawatts. More than 60 cities, states and businesses have signed on to a White House initiative to promote community solar options for low- and middle-income households.

The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that shared and “community-scale” solar could be generating up to 30 gigawatts of power for the United States by 2020. “Community-scale solar is at a sweet spot between utility-scale and behind-the-meter solar,” the Institute said. “It is neither too big nor too small; it is just the right size to capture community and distributed energy benefits on the one hand, and utility-scale solar’s economies of scale on the other.”