Definition of Community  

Before determining the difference between a good and bad community solar program there is the importance of knowing the definition of community solar. Most often renewable is installed upon an independent building with solar or ground panels, producing the electricity for each individual location first.  

The popularity of community solar exists as well, especially among those locations where there are a number of homes or buildings combined where there wouldn’t be convenient access to effective panel installation on the roof or ground. Basically, the community solar program works in the same manner as the fossil fuel and other carbon-based power grids that maintain the electricity of entire cities and regions. 

The Need for Community Solar 

Solar power is effective for low-cost community energy, and while it may not be completely difficult there is a decent amount of planning that is required. In some communities, buildings do not have the access or enough room for the solar panels to provide energy for all the units included, and other buildings may not have either enough roof-based or ground-based solar accessible space to have panels that will collect enough energy.  

Cells including photovoltaics may only fulfill renewable energy needs in part, therefore solar is needed in a much larger capacity. In this way, the need for community solar comes into play. With many nonprofits and other community charities, there has been the growth for the solar programs that provide renewable energy for buildings and units that are not able to do so on their own.  

Sometimes corporate buyers even find this out when there is not enough sun-accessible space on their office property for the transfer to solar. With the drop-in cost for both the purchase and installation of solar panels, there is much to gain from the movement to solar. However, without the ability of all buildings to independently install renewable energy there is a need for the current power grids to be replaced by solar in these cases.  

With the rise of consumer demand, increasing market, and expanding access for homeowners and renters alike, additionally for shaded properties, there is an added reason for the production of community solar systems. Community solar programs will have financial benefits for those involved as well as other economic improvements in those regions working toward cost-cutting, carbon reductions, and many other improvements.  

Preparation and Setup for Community Solar 

Well over half the country (36 states) already has community solar moving actively. Much success has been found from those in practice the longest, and there is still a great amount of positive work being done on those in progress for setup and initiation. Both in setting up the community solar program and keeping it running, there are certain steps that have been put into place. These include the following: 

  1. Growth of solar access: Enough PV capacity is required to satisfy the demand, with a focus on guaranteeing low-income customers a decent share. 
  2. Rates should go down: Community solar best practices include bill credits, not premiums. Financing should be paid by the bill, not paying deposits or up-front costs that are not returnable. 
  3. Must be economically beneficial: Programs led by utilities work with scaled economies and strategies that gain land and minimize development costs. 
  4. Consumer experience: Protection should be included, and bills should clearly reflect easy payment. Subscriptions should be transferrable. 
  5. Programs should be competitive: Drive down ratepayer costs, becoming consumer-friendly. Therefore, developers of community solar programs should use local workers and pay the best wages. 
  6. Program optimization for maximum benefit: Place PV projects at locations where community solar provides grid resiliency and community development (i.e. when located at or near a school could be paired with a micro grid working for the school). 
  7. The project must complement existing programs: Community solar projects bring additional renewable elections and pair with other programs benefiting the population including like workforce development, STEM education, and helping low-income households pay utilities. 

Advancement of U.S. Solar Programs 

American cities are continually growing toward the desire for complete reliance on renewable energy. In this case, community solar programs are becoming more common. While existing community solar is about one gigawatt currently, it is expected to increase to about 50-80 gigawatts within the next decade. This is much to be seen for the potential of solar as it will continue to grow for all of us. 

On top of community solar there is also the development of community choice aggregation. In this platform local governments negotiate the purchase of large-scale renewable energy through utility companies. While this is only available in a few states at this time it has the potential to grow into other areas very soon. 

In addition, national promotion of solar is growing incredibly even with the White House placing great emphasis on the need for coal in the American economy. Luckily, the number of solar incentives available to taxpayers across the country, the SolSmart program also helps with the adoption of community solar. The Solar Foundation runs this program in an effort to help local governments with solar permitting processes and incredible competition for marketplace growth. 

Reference:
https://cleantechnica.com/2018/11/17/how-to-tell-a-good-community-solar-program-from-a-bad-one/ 

 

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