(Photo Credit: Cook County government)
As the country rebounds from the shutdown and shelter-at-home orders, a renewed interest has sparked in community solar.
Also known as solar gardens or shared solar, community solar is showing resilience during the lockdown. Since it requires low commitment and provides high flexibility, community solar looks more insulated from the current economic disruptions than other segments. This model allows consumers to subscribe to a larger, off-site shared solar PV system either through buying or leasing part of it. Even amidst the current slowdown, subscriber numbers have held steady and some subscription organizations are planning on expanding, Greentech Media reported.
While challenges remain for virtually every company in the solar industry, community solar offers a potential growth area for many individual state markets.
Let’s take a look at where and why community solar is booming.
Where Community Solar is Taking Off
Across the country, politicians and advocacy groups have made great strides in breaking through the gridlock stifling widespread community solar acceptance. Thanks to these efforts, the U.S. has installed more than 2 gigawatts of community solar capacity, with nearly 2 GW more in the pipeline.
Although varying in scope, 40 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted legislation that facilitates community solar, including authorizing pilot projects and implementing statewide programs. The majority of projects are located:
- Throughout New England states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut
- All along the West Coast and in Nevada
- In Mid-Atlantic states such as New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland
- In Midwest states like Illinois and Minnesota
With more than 680 MWac of cumulative solar capacity as of Oct. 2019, Minnesota leads community solar deployment in the U.S., according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The state has an additional 279 MWac of planned community solar capacity in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, New York only had 71 MWac of operational community solar projects as of Sept. 2019, but it also had 800 MWac in the pipeline. This stems from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority putting an ambitious community solar plan in place, spurring more growth.
In Massachusetts, after transitioning from the RPS Solar Carve-Out II Program to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, the state’s community solar pipeline skyrocketed. As of Aug. 2019, the state had 240 MWac of community solar projects in operation with 656 MWac planned.
What’s Driving Community Solar Growth?
In addition to improved state and local incentives and policies, increased consumer awareness of community solar’s benefits is helping to boost its adoption.
Greater Consumer Awareness
From a consumer standpoint, there’s little to no downside in community solar. This is also an especially popular route for people who rent or are unable to install a rooftop solar system.
The consumer signs up and subscribes to receive renewable energy from a local community solar garden. They can do this without having to invest in solar panels or add anything to their home. If they don’t like the arrangement, they can cancel and return to their previous utility provider.
Three of the biggest hurdles to overcome for community solar don’t involve technology or resources, but rather information, noted Solar Power World. Consumers either lacked awareness, have misconceptions about product viability, or are just outright resistant to change. But with community solar installations set to double, this proliferation should help in further educating local residents about the wide range of benefits it offers.
Better Access to High-Quality Solar Components
Another factor driving community solar is better solar component procurement, making it easier than ever for developers to get a community solar garden up and running.
In the past, developers and installers would need to order through distributor partners to procure high quality solar components. This model favored larger developers and kept smaller developers on the sidelines since they weren’t purchasing at scale.
But now, thanks to options like Trina Solar’s C&I Solution, developers, installers and financiers across the country have access to high-quality solar components with seamless procurement. Trina’s innovative C&I Solution gives EPCs and developers the help they need to take advantage of the bustling opportunities available with community solar projects.
As more people learn about the benefits of community solar, project developers and installers will be needed to meet this demand. Reach out to Trina Solar today to learn more about community solar opportunities.
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