Member-Owned Community Solar Could Become Adopted on National Level

Member-owned community solar could become the next big thing. Read about an impressive project in Oakland and how it could change the world.


You might have heard of member-owned , and for good reason. It is about to potentially become even more popular. Only just commissioned via People Power is a 7 kilowatt  system, which services 50 special-purpose cooperative members. It is the first residential solar system in America that is cooperatively-owned and a brand new model, according to Oakland’s Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Director of the Community Renewable Program, Subin DeVar 

Solar Moves in Oakland: Bringing Clean Energy to Market 

Oakland’s Sustainable Economies Law Center has offered support and legal services for the People Power project because of a grant from the California Energy Commission. The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development Initiative (CalSEED) provided the financing. The goal is to help entrepreneurs and innovators to bring clean energy concepts to market. This is an important move in the world of solar.  

The People Power coop is designed based on the objective to deliver electricity to customers at a lower rate than is usually charged by the local utility – we are talking about 15 percent savings.  actually recently suggested a 15 percent savings to potential lessees prior to the company being bought by  

Community Solar: Creating Self-Reliant Communities 

The electricity from the People Power installation is used up by the duplex residences, which host the array. Surplus electricity is exported to PG&E under the present net metering standard. A return is provided to investors through the project. According to DeVar, business modeling, pre-development costs and planning costs for developing the coop were covered. He mentioned the importance of providing legal services which will promote self-reliant communities in regard to energy.  

In terms of community solar, other models include but are not limited to third-party-owned projects, utility-owned solar projects, and not-for-profit projects. So far, utility-owned community solar has spread very quickly, but without the involvement of a government subsidy, the incentive to offer electricity at a lower rate than non-solar electricity is merely not there.   

In a third-party-owned community , one usually has a situation in which the developer maintains ownership of generating assets and sells power to consumers under power purchase agreements (PPA’s). In this type of solar project, some residential customers might be involved. Unfortunately, often times, low-income residents are left out.  

With regard to the People Power coop, some low-income members participate, but without a continuing government subsidy, it tends to be difficult to include many low-income members in a community solar project. DeVar mentioned discussions taking place regarding consumers paying over a period of time instead of upfront in the event that they cannot otherwise afford to be a part of the community solar project. Basically, there is the clear notion that adopting clean energy is important, but it’s equally as important to get more people on board and financially able to participate.  

A Solar Expansion 

DeVar stated that the Sustainable Economies Law Center is thinking about replicating the People Power solar project model elsewhere in California, and possibly even outside of California.  

There is talk about adding more solar arrays within the People Power coop, too, including privately owned sites and residences. The Sustainable Economies Law Center is also thinking about deviations on member-owned community solar, for instance, situations in which a primary user might be a large anchor customer, such as a church or local business.  

In situations where consuming members are geographically spread, DeVar noted the possibility of virtual net metering for member-owned community solar.  

Going forward, it is very likely that the state of California will support more member-owned community solar and maybe, other financial partners could replace the role of a government subsidy.  

There are many things happening across the country in relation to solar power, specifically community solar projects. Following solar news always seems to reveal interesting stories which demonstrate how forward-thinking individuals and businesses alike happen to be. Imagine what could be done in your area if more people had the opportunity to go solar. Stay on top of solar news and consider small changes you could make daily to help improve and clean our planet. Think about the People Power Solar Cooperative in Oakland and how investments of up to $1,000 each from 50 plus community members have made such a difference. When we all work together, big things happen!  



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