A community solar project is also known as shared solar energy plant or solar garden. In this green energy distribution model, one solar plant can be shared by more than one household. The solar plant can either be owned by a residential community or a third party.
This model is developed to help multiple households utilize solar energy without having to equip rooftop solar plants on their roofs. Solar industries in developed, as well as developing countries, can benefit from such models as it reduces the responsibility of bearing the initial cost of installing a solar project on the roof. Thus, speeding up solar adoption within the country. Community solar also costs less than the price ordinarily paid to their utility.
People in the United States have shown great demand for community solar but face challenges if they do not own a house; live in multiple-unit dwellings; or do not have enough roof space for solar installation. These are all legitimate problems that limit the solar adoption rate in not just the US but EU and even developing countries.
Here community solar offers an opportunity to ensure green energy access with these challenges. It allows a community or an individual to share local solar facilities with other community subscribers. Everyone who participates receives credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced.
Benefits of Community Solar
- Access to solar energy
- No initial installation cost
- Environmental benefits through CO2 reduction
- Raising awareness regarding solar adoption by involving residents
- Lower energy prices
- Reduced energy bills
- Acceleration of energy access and renewable deployment rates
- Technology and business model innovation
- Job creation, the establishment of a new economic sector, and a local identity
- Increased transparency in planning and construction
Community solar is one of the fastest-growing segments of the US solar photovoltaic market, amounting to 2 GW of energy capacity within the country’s total installed capacity. With Minnesota and Massachusetts leading the growth, about 88% of the total market is concentrated in the top 10 states within the country. Nearly 39 states within the US have established community solar projects and 20 states in the US have favorable policies to support community solar plants.
Understanding, that involving citizens in the green energy transition is the best way to reach green energy to them while going ahead with countrywide solarisation, countries in the EU have progressed in shared solar installations as well. This has increased the solar power acceptance within the communities globally and allowed solar growth in countries like Germany, Denmark etc. It is important to point out that within 2014 50% of renewable generation in Germany became community-owned.
The US and the EU are taking a leading role in community solar and highlighting some of the best practices that developing countries can follow.
The US has also shown incredible growth in community solar. Solar farms in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York have been inspiring the country to invest in more community solar projects, which can reach sustainable power to more residents. For example, New York has more than 800 MW of shared solar projects in its pipeline. And if the targets are achieved, New York would be able to provide clean energy to more than 120,000 homes.
It is apparent that community solar is the best way to spread green energy to every part of the country. Considering the importance of promoting solar adoption to get out of the binds of fossil fuel generation, usage and import costs, reduce global warming, create jobs, and build energy security for all (even low-income groups); the time is now to take progressive decisions and act towards community solar growth.