Community solar in the United States is seeing such an influx of funding and an uptick in institutional interest that one of its proponents says the right policy support could make it the country’s second-biggest source of solar-electric capacity.
While the recent “hype” around community solar is well grounded in logistical and financial realities, writes Alina Kasprik, project finance manager at Standard Solar, in a recent post for Renewable Energy World, it still needs committed government policy to ensure that communities of all types and sizes can reap the benefits.
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“Community solar projects often have as their customers residential and commercial entities, but they are being built on a utility scale—which attracts institutional financiers in ways typical residential and (in particular) commercial solar projects do not,” she states. “When you add to that the fact that between 50 and 75% of potential solar consumers can’t put solar panels on their own roof,” the time for community solar has clearly arrived.
“The influx of money has the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) predicting that community solar will make up 30% of all distributed generation solar electricity by 2020, and 42 states have at least one community solar project active,” Kasprik adds.
But there’s still a growing need for policy-makers to step up.
“Despite its obvious growth and expansion, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have created policies that encourage the development of community solar,” she writes. “If the rest of the country followed Minnesota’s and Colorado’s leads and actually put into place policies that would encourage community solar, the mind boggles. But it’s a safe bet that community solar would quickly become the second-largest solar segment behind utility-scale.”
That potential underscores the need for solar advocates to “educate policy-makers at all levels—local, state and federal—to the advantages of community solar,” Kasprik concludes.
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