The Era of Community Solar

The Era of Community Solar

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Media Inquiries

  • Jamie Moss (newsPRos) Media Relations w. 201.493.1027 c. 201.788.0142
  • Bree Metherall Director of Business Development 503.294.9435

A National Movement

yellow quotation markLike in California and other states, a key element of New York’s program is how . . . subscribers are compensated for the energy produced by community solar projects.

Hawaii

In June 2015, Hawaii became the latest community solar leader. Informed by earlier state programs, Hawaii pursued an approach that called on the utilities to offer community solar programs directly to customers, rather than allowing private solar developers to do so. Like other states, the underlying motivation was to open solar (and other renewable energy) to consumers who could not participate otherwise because of their location, building type, access to the grid, or other impediments. Though the program is not limited to solar, Hawaii currently ranks eighth in the country in installed solar capacity, suggesting that much of the new project capacity will be from solar.

New York

In July 2015, New York unveiled a bold Community Shared Renewables program as part its larger Reforming Energy Vision (REV) initiative. The REV initiative has established distributed energy resources, including community shared renewables, as a key component of the future of New York’s electricity grid. New York’s program was unique in the way it prioritized low-income participation as well as projects that maximize locational benefits, such as relieving grid congestion.

Like in California and other states, a key element of New York’s program is how much it will cost and how developers and subscribers are compensated for the energy produced by community solar projects. In April 2016, a coalition calling itself the Solar Progress Partnership and made up of the state’s six utilities, along with SunEdison, Solar City, and SunPower, submitted joint comments that laid out a formula for compensating community shared renewable projects for their electricity generation. Like in Minnesota, New York has experienced some challenges with the significant amount of community solar projects that have applied for interconnection.

Connecticut

In October 2015, Connecticut established a two year pilot program to “support the development of shared clean energy facilities.” The pilot program was capped at 6 MW in the aggregate, with capacity allocations made for each utility. The original legislation did not address how to establish the bill credit or other details of the program, leading regulators to seek clarification, has which delayed implementation. Regulators will study the results of the pilot and make recommendations on a permanent program, if any.

Oregon

In March 2016, Oregon passed a law establishing the outline of a community solar program, with details to be determined by regulators. The rules will allow a customer to purchase or lease (for a minimum of 10 years) a portion of a community solar project. Unlike many states, there are no geographic restrictions. Projects can be located anywhere in the state, regardless of where the subscriber is located, affording developers great flexibility in choosing the best sites for their projects. Project must be at least 25 kW in size and have no maximum size limit.

Continuing the evolution of methods to allocate costs and compensation for community solar, in Oregon, the law requires that subscribers be credited at the “resource value of solar” rate. That is a calculation that is being developed in Oregon, which aims to factor in all elements of solar’s benefits and costs. Using a combination of the third party developer and utility ownership model, the rules allow utilities and developers to create community solar programs. Private developers will be offered a 20 year power purchase agreement with the utility. These long-term contracts, the flexibility in project siting, and likelihood of high subscriber credits under the resource value of solar concept should combine to make Oregon an attractive market for community solar developers and customers.

Maryland

In June 2016, Maryland adopted regulations to create a 200 MW community solar program. Individual projects are capped at 2 MW, with no more than 350 subscribers per project. Customers receive a full retail rate credit for all subscribed energy used in a given year. The state will collect data on the impact of the program and propose modifications at the end of the three year term. Although technically a short-term pilot program, the size of the program cap will likely entice private developers to invest in the Maryland market.

Media Inquiries

  • Jamie Moss (newsPRos) Media Relations w. 201.493.1027 c. 201.788.0142
  • Bree Metherall Director of Business Development 503.294.9435
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