Tools & Resources
Community Solar

Definition

Mid-sized solar projects (e.g., up to 2MW) sited within the customer’s utility service territory and connected to the distribution grid. The output of the solar array is divided among multiple subscribers, who receive utility bill credits for their share of the energy production. Typically, the utility or a third party develops and maintains the plant on behalf of the subscribers. Community Solar is a subset of Community Renewable projects that cover a larger set of renewable resources.

Also known as Community Shared Solar, Shared Solar

Description

Community solar allows consumers to get solar energy even if they are not able to install on-site solar on their property (e.g., as is the case with renters or those without viable rooftops for hosting solar). Community members can purchase shares of the system directly through an upfront payment or pay monthly for a specified level of output of the project. They can then receive monthly bill credits for their share of the project. For local governments to take advantage of this option, the state must have an established community solar policy or the utility must offer their own program. Some states require that a portion of the output (e.g., 5-10%) must be set aside for low- and moderate-income participants. Similar to community solar, some states have passed virtual net metering legislation, which enables the output of a solar facility to be credited to multiple customers or facilities. Customers can sign a contract with a solar facility that is not located on their property but still receive the same financial benefits (i.e., bill credits) from the utility as though it were on their property.

Primary Considerations

  • Has my state enacted community solar legislation?
  • If so, what state supported community solar programs exist?
  • Is there a limit on the project size if the program is state-supported?
  • Is virtual net metering allowed in my state?
  • At what rate am I compensated/credited when I generate more electricity than I use?

Secondary Considerations

  • For the state program, does my state require low to moderate income considerations?
  • If I move within the service territory, can I take my subscription with me?
  • Can I transfer the community solar panel ownership / contract to others?
  • Where can I site¬†community solar projects?

Sources:
SharedRenewablesScorecard.org; SharedRenewables.org; DSIREusa.org; NREL.gov

Community Solar Tools & Resources

Name
Author
Date
Type
A State-by-State Policy Guide for Midsized Solar Customers National Renewable Energy Lab Factsheets
Community Power Map ILSR (Institute for Local Self-Reliance) 2018 Website
DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) DOE/NC Clean Energy Technology Center 2018 Website
DSIRE Glossary Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) Glossary
Electric Power Markets: National Overview Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 2017 Interactive Map
GHG Emissions Calculator EPA 2017 Tool
Google Community Solar Potential Map Google Project Sunroof Interactive Map
Green Power Supply Options EPA GPP 2018 Website
IREC Glossary Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Glossary
National Renewables Scorecard Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) 2018 Interactive Map
Pathways to 100: An Energy Supply Transformation Primer for US Cities Meister Consultants Group / Cadmus 2017 Report
Policies and Incentives by State Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) Interactive Map
Purchasing Power: Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement WRI and Joint Venture Silicon Valley 2011 Report
SEIA Solar State-by-State Factsheets Solar Energy Industries Association Q3 2018 Interactive Map
SLED (State and Local Energy Data) Department of Energy 2018 Database
State-by-State Map of Energy Choice in the U.S American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers Interactive Map
Toolbox for Renewable Energy Project Development EPA Green Power Partnership 2018 Website
U.S. EIA Glossary U.S. Energy Information Administration Glossary
USA Shared Energy Map Shared Renewables HQ Interactive Map
Wholesale Electricity and Natural Gas Market Data U.S. Energy Information Administration 2019 Database
Top