Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What is Community Renewable Energy?

Back in 2010, a group of community solar pioneers took a shot at defining community renewable energy! With minor rewrites, here are the 10 criteria. This could serve as a guide in project development and in evaluating various models.

1. Community renewable energy is initiated through an open grass-roots process with all stake holders at the table.

2. Community renewable energy is as distributed as possible – if not on your roof, in your neighborhood. If not in your neighborhood, within your county.

3. Community renewable energy takes into account all externalities – carbon footprint, land use, and visual + auditory impacts.

4. Community renewable energy is integrated into the local environment with multiple uses – combined with plant or animal production (agrivoltaics), covered parking, brownfield redevelopment, etc.

5. Community renewable energy strengthens community capital – local agriculture, religious or environmental groups, schools, libraries, community centers, etc.

6. Community renewable energy is owned in common or fractionally by its users, or leased-to-own, with the right to democratic governance.

7. Community renewable energy keeps money local, re-investing in additional solar or other community benefits.

8. Community renewable energy supports local entrepreneurs, workers, and non-profits.

9. Community renewable energy is available to low and middle income people and people of color in numbers sufficient to equalize solar penetration amongst socioeconomic groups.

10. Community renewable energy keeps people engaged in groups, helping them become more sustainable in every way. Community renewable energy groups reach out to other communities, work together, and share resources and knowledge.

Link to the page at

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tucson RV park becomes first in nation to use unique solar array

"It is two acres of 28-feet-high solar arrays that provide shade for 30 recreational vehicles. The solar array design comes from a Chandler, AZ, company. It is considered a plus for KOA because it saves energy and power costs."

""Elements of the design that allow dappled light - we call dappled light - filtered light to come through, create patterns of light to come through, allowing you to grow trees, plants, flowers. The elevated structure doesn't block the view of the horizon," said Bob Boscamp, president of Strategic Solar Energy."

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ireland: Proclamation for Community Energy | Friends of the Earth

100 community groups and co-operatives launch a Proclamation for Community Energy today. For the first time in Ireland this 'Proclamation for Community Energy' recognises communities as active participants in the clean energy transition, and as the best way to unlock the renewable energy potential in Ireland.

Imagine a community putting its hands up and deciding to build a wind farm. Imagine all the schools in a town running on clean free solar electricity. Imagine your heating is powered by biomass and waste from the local farms. Imagine the profits from the local renewable energy project are shared by the local energy co-operative and the individuals and communities who are part of it. Imagine we owned all or part of the renewable energy that powers our lives.

Major Report: Community Solar Program Design Models | Solar Electric Power Association

The Solar Electric Power Association is the solar power advocacy group most associated with the utility industry. According to their website, "SEPA is an educational non-profit that enables the transition to a clean energy economy by facilitating utility integration and deployment of solar, demand response, other distributed energy resources, and supporting technologies onto the grid."

SEPA has released a major report on community shared solar prepared through DOE SunShot's Solar Market Pathways grant program. The report analyzes the current state of the solar gardens market and the business models used. Many existing arrays are not currently fully subscribed.


PV Solar Report article has posted an article on this topic:

"The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) surveyed 25 of the active community solar projects for a new report to discover how to make them more successful. It found that currently only one-third of the projects are fully subscribed. A quarter of them were less than 50 percent subscribed. The new report, “Community Solar Program Design Models,” is intended to help community solar farms gain the customers they need to be successful."

"Overall SEPA is tracking 68 community solar projects across the country. The majority of them are smaller than 1 megawatt in size. SEPA also found that the majority, 73 percent, charge an up front fee of $3 per watt in 2015, down from $5 per watt in 2011 for customers participating."

"SEPA’s initial research shows that consumers are interested in community solar. But they community solar options with flexible commitments. They’re not looking for long-term contracts, for instance, and they want their shares in the farm to be transferable. Some consumers also want the solar farm located where they can’t see it."

Monday, December 7, 2015

New training video and slides: Solar Gardens for Low and Moderate Income Communities

On Friday, December 4th, Here Comes Solar in New York City hosted a webinar on shared solar inclusion for low to moderate income communities. The topics discussed here are applicable nationwide.

How can we make access to clean renewable energy a human right? Until recently, the majority of residential solar energy systems have been installed for well-off homeowners with sunny roofs. A solar garden is like a community garden - instead of having a patch of vegetables, a customer benefits from a number of panels in a shared array, with power produced credited on the electric bill.

The YouTube video is below:

The slides are also available on SlideShare:

New Solar Gardens FAQ has a new updated FAQ!

As time has moved on and both the community solar landscape and our organization have changed, the website is changing as well to better support solar gardeners everywhere.

Please let us know if you find this useful, and if you have any unanswered questions that should be included here.

New FAQ at:

The Tea Party leader taking a stand for solar energy: 'I will do what's right' | US news | The Guardian

Debbie Dooley is a firebrand Republican and an outspoken founding member of the Tea Party. But in a fast-intensifying battle over the future of solar power in Florida, she isnot on the side you might expect.
Along with a diverse grassroots citizens' coalition including environmentalists and other left-leaning activists, Dooley is taking on Big Energy and its big-spending conservative backers in an intriguing fight that puts her toe-to-toe with her onetime political allies.
Read more:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How equity crowd-funding could transform the community energy sector | One Step Off The Grid

Around Australia, communities are gathering to create community energy projects which deliver triple bottom line benefits to regional and urban communities. However, only a handful of projects have succeeded so far – thanks largely to the compliance cost of current investment regulations. In this article we explain how equity crowd-funding reform – if done appropriately could open the floodgates to the community energy sector.

Up to 80 groups across Australia are attempting to create such projects – however, only a handful of projects have succeeded so far. A primary reason for the lack of success to date is the current investment regulations which limit equity crowdfunding. In this article we explain how equity crowd-funding reform – if done appropriately could open the floodgates to the community energy sector.

Read More:

Are Private Electricity Grids Fuelled by Renewable Energy the Future for Communities? |

December 1, 2015

By Andrew Spence, The Lead

Connecting new housing estates to their own private electricity grids fuelled by renewable energy is the cornerstone of ZEN Energy’s plan to put power back in the hands of consumers.

The company has launched ZEN Communities – an “end to end” service from power generation through to networks and retailing to deliver low cost renewable energy direct to entire communities.

ZEN Energy Director of Innovation Richard Turner founded the company in South Australia 11 years ago and has overseen its evolution from solar panel installer to Australia’s first dedicated “community energy provider.”

Turner said ZEN had teamed up with Greensmith Energy Management systems, which last year delivered a third of the energy storage market in the U.S., including the largest system in the world – big enough to power a regional township.

“Suddenly we’ve got relatively new technology that has come down dramatically in cost to the point where we can build a renewable power station at a township level which takes the form of shipping container sized batteries – you might have five or six or 10 of these in a row,” Turner said. “It’s almost going back to the future – back 100 years to the old township-based power supply."

South Australia is cementing itself as a world leader in green energy as companies begin cracking the code to make renewables commercially viable.

Nearly a quarter of houses in South Australia have installed rooftop solar panels, making it one of the highest penetration rates in the world. It is also the largest producer of wind energy in Australia – the state’s 1.5 GW ofwind energy represents almost half of the country’s capability.

South Australia made headlines around the world when it was announced that the state – 'a place with the population of West Virginia' – had been powered by 100 percent renewable energy for an entire working day.

Turner said ZEN’s community projects could range in size from single homes to townships up to 20,000 properties.

He said solar, wind, biomass, biowaste or hydro power could be generated within the community and moved around the mini-grid to where it was needed or stored for later use.

“It’s all about optomizing the best natural mix of resources in an area that we can harness to produce the lowest cost power, then we balance that off with energy storage,” he said.

ZEN’s first pilot project will begin next year at a housing development in Melbourne.

Turner said the communities would be much easier to set up in green field sites where there were no connections to existing power networks.

“We have to get to these new developments before they turn dirt because we have to get a distribution exemption to build a private network,” he said. “There’s about 100,000 homes already in the pipeline from developers who have approached us wanting to use this model for new housing developments; so our aim is to get this community model right and then potentially take them to other countries. We’ve got that many inquiries already from around the world; it’s ridiculous but we’ve still got a lot of work to do in Australia with our pilots.”

He added, "within a couple of years you’ll see them in full swing probably all around the country.”

ZEN appointed high-profile Australian economist and national climate change review author Ross Garnaut as its chairman last month.

“He quite clearly understands where energy markets are heading and as a result of that he’s become the chairman of ZEN,” Turner said of Garnaut. “We’ve got a very heavy hitting board and we’ve brought these people in to give us the leverage and the ability to work with the utilities and develop this new energy sector. To make this a reality you’ve got to bring the right people in."

He added, “Ross Garnaut sought us out; he said there’s a real opportunity to do this community power and ZEN is best placed to make this a reality.”

Turner said South Australia was perfectly placed to be at the forefront of renewable energy advancements.

“Adelaide’s a smaller city," he said. "We’ve got a very entrepreneurial population – we’ve just had to be to survive – we also have the best renewable energy resources in the world in terms of solar and wind and we also have very high power prices because we are on the end of the eastern power grid. All the elements add up to be the perfect storm here in South Australia to develop these sorts of technologies.”

This article was published under a Creative Commons agreement by The Lead South Australia.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Webinar 12/4: Strategies for Low and Moderate Income (LMI) Inclusion in New York State

     Join us for an hour-long webinar on Dec 04, 2015 at 10:00 AM EST.
Register now!
Presenter: Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

How can we make access to clean renewable energy a human right? Until recently, the majority of residential solar energy systems have been installed for well-off homeowners with sunny roofs. A solar garden is like a community garden - instead of having a patch of vegetables, a customer benefits from a number of panels in a shared array, with power produced credited on the electric bill.

New York’s new Community Shared Renewables program includes important provisions to incentivize the participation of LMI customers. Until April 30, 2016, each array installed under the program in certain areas must provide at least 20% of its capacity to LMI customers. This workshop will explore business models for solar gardens that are advantageous to LMI customers, allowing for energy savings and the ability to own their own panels.

Specific topics:
- Review of community solar models for LMI customers
- Community outreach and customer acquisition in LMI communities
- The relative benefits of solar ownership versus solar power purchases for LMI customers
- The National Community Solar Partnership (White House / Department of Energy)
- Recent changes in IRS policy
- Upcoming changes to federal tax credits
- Securities Law considerations
- Common challenges and hurdles
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Offered by:
 Here Comes Solar NYC
Group-Based Purchasing. When homeowners pursue solar at the same time as a group, they can achieve more competitive pricing than if they went it alone.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Large Solar Projects Capped Out in Massachusetts | EcoRI News

Massachusetts heads into the holiday season with some unfinished environmental business. Despite some late action with competing bills, the Legislature failed to raise the cap on a popular solar program before it wrapped up the 2015 session.

The state’s solar ceiling has already been reached in 171 communities serviced by National Grid, primarily in eastern Massachusetts. The limit doesn’t affect small residential solar projects. But the cap does prevent larger, often shared or community solar arrays, from powering their homes with remote solar arrays that benefit renters, low-income communities and homes whose roofs aren’t suitable for solar panels.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Minnesota: Xcel Energy Reports 24 Community Solar Garden Projects are Beginning Construction | Stoel Rives LLP - JDSupra

Xcel Energy filed its monthly report for the Community Solar Garden program with the Public Utilities Commission last week, revealing that 24 projects are moving to the beginning stages of construction.

Xcel also reports that, "after receiving over 600 applications in the surge to submit co-located projects, the pace has slowed considerably." There are currently 615 applications in the interconnection queue and 925 applications being reviewed for completeness, but the utility believes that "many of these projects in the application stage are 'placeholders' that may not be actively pursued by developers." Xcel adds that "63% of pending applications are in the application stage, 35% are either being studied or waiting for payment, and 2% have moved into construction."

Read more:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Giving Low-Income Families Access to Clean Energy and Efficiency | Rocky Mountain Institute

In June, RMI—along with its partner organizations—launched eLab Leap in New York to identify the unmet needs and create solutions that empower and improve the lives of low-income communities and households in a clean energy future.
Forty diverse groups joined eLab Leap's first meeting including low-income and consumer advocates, environmental groups, government entities, housing organizations, utilities, regulators, foundations, and financiers.
The meeting attendees created four initiatives to collaboratively implement and test solutions for low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities in New York. These initiatives are:
  • REVitalize: Fund a community-generated, clean energy plan that leverages New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding to bring economic and environmental justice to all members of the community.
  • Public Participation Initiative: Drive more effective engagement, participation, and communication between government agencies and stakeholders working on low-income issues in New York.
  • Community Energy Project: Conduct and implement holistic and complete energy efficiency, weatherization, and DER audits, retrofits and upgrades all at once, and at scale in a particular neighborhood, and develop a sustainable funding model.
  • Guide to Community-Owned, Local LMI Microgrids: Develop a guide to help communities interested in pursuing community-owned, local renewable energy infrastructure to understand the decisions they need to make and the actions they need to take to achieve their goals.

Community solar makes participation affordable in Delaware | Public Power Daily

Each participant pays a low entry fee — $50 — to join a community solar project. The money is used to install energy efficiency measures that will benefit the entire community, such as LED street lighting. The money saved through the energy efficiency benefits everyone in the community, even if they don’t participate in the community solar project.

DEMEC set up the program so that it can accept financial donations from those who want to give community solar an extra boost.

The community solar project also offers its output below retail market rates. The program is able to keep costs down because the community solar projects avoid several costs, such as the utilities' need to buy solar renewable energy certificates and provide net metering credits.

As a result, the program offers blocks of solar to community participants at one cent less than they would otherwise pay for electricity.


Arkansas’ First Community Solar Center Breaks Ground Nov. 20 | AMP

This project is very interesting as it takes advantage of recent IRS policy allowing each customer to claim a 30% federal tax credit. This eliminates the transaction costs associated with tax equity financing. Unfortunately, this model will only be available until the end of 2016. 

The project is also unusual in that it uses meter aggregation rather than virtual net metering. Each customer has a separately metered physical array on site. 

– Joy


Members of three local organizations dedicated to expanding access to solar power will break ground on the state’s first community solar center on Friday, Nov. 20.

The 1 acre Bearskin Solar Center in Scott is also the first of many planned community solar centers in Arkansas, said Bill Ball, CEO of Stellar Sun, an Arkansas renewable energy services company and one of the project’s organizers. He said two others are currently in the works, but could not yet provide details.


Initial setup fees for consumers buying into the Bearskin center can be $3.25 to $3.65 per watt for residential properties, he explained. A 30 percent Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit is typically available for homeowners with a solar array located on their properties, but Ball said the Internal Revenue Service has issued specific rulings allowing customers that have purchased community solar arrays to also claim the credit. He said this is explained to customers seeking to buy into the Bearskin project.

NYSERDA Program Increases Solar Access for Low- to Moderate-Income Residents | 2015-11-19 | ACHRNEWS

Part of the NY-Sun initiative, Affordable Solar is authorized to spend $13 million to achieve greater participation by low- to moderate-income customers in solar electric programs. The double incentives for low- to moderate-income homeowners will use approximately half of that funding. The other half will be used in the future to support shared solar projects for renters and others who do not have rooftops or who have rooftops that are unsuitable for solar.

Read more:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

FACT SHEET: Administration Announces 68 Cities, States, and Businesses Are Working Together to Increase Access to Solar for All Americans |

The Obama Administration is committed to addressing climate change, promoting clean energy, and creating good paying jobs.  That is why, at a National Community Solar Summit at the White House today, the Administration is announcing 68 cities, states, and businesses are joining together to promote community solar, with an emphasis on scaling up solar for low- and moderate- income households. Community solar allows multiple households and businesses to pool their resources and invest in shared solar systems to save on their energy bills. Today, private sector organizations are building on the initial commitments announced in July, bringing the total number of pledges to advance community solar and scale up solar and for low- and moderate- income households to more than 20,000 households and $545 million across 21states.

Actions like the ones announced today, will help the U.S. transition to cleaner sources of energy faster and ensure the opportunity to access clean energy is available to those who need it most, putting the U.S. on a strong playing field to secure an ambitious climate agreement in Paris.   

Since President Obama took office, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased nearly twenty fold. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent. However, nearly 50 percent of American households and businesses are renters or lack the capital and adequate roof space to install solar systems.

Community solar has the potential to unlock economic growth across the United States while providing clean solar power to historically underserved communities and allowing them to benefit from the falling costs and increased deployment of solar. Low-income households, which spend four times greater proportion of their income on energy than the national median, can see significant benefits from community solar. Access to solar power could substantially reduce the energy burden of low-income households by providing stable electricity prices below local utility rates.

White House fact sheet:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

NRECA Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) Project - NRECA

The Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration project, or SUNDA, is developing a standardized "Photovoltaic system package" consisting of engineering designs, business models, financing and insurance options, and optimized procurement that can reduce the cost of utility-scale solar projects. NRECA estimates these packages can reduce engineering design costs by 25 percent, procurement costs by ten percent and insurance costs by 25 percent.

The SUNDA project aims to bring the cost of installed solar down to $1.60/Wp.

Read more:

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Big Picture - A Grand Vision for Community Solar

Imagine a world where everyone owns their own solar panels. Whether from rooftop panels or a nearby solar garden shared with neighbors, each person will have clean, locally produced electricity as a birthright. With each solar garden the centerpiece of a community microgrid, power supply can be resilient to extreme weather, becoming an “island” of power when needed. Money for electricity stays local, building vibrant community wealth. The electric grid and utilities are re-engineered, managing a bidirectional flow of power from where the sun shines and wind blows to wherever it is needed most, dynamically changing with conditions. Batteries, both stationary and in smart-charging vehicles, provide support at night and when the sun goes behind a cloud. This is the distributed energy vision, which addresses both the problems of climate change and economic inequality. has supported the distributed energy vision since early 2010, a time when the centralized energy paradigm was dominant. The plan on the table was for huge solar and wind power plants to be built in remote areas, with a web of new transmission lines bringing renewable power to the cities. While “big solar” remains a big part of the picture, distributed energy has gained traction in recent years in particular because of the rapid reduction in solar PV prices.

Community and shared solar systems have expanded rapidly in the United States and several other countries. The openings of solar gardens programs in Colorado and Minnesota have lead to mini “gold rushes” as companies compete for opportunities, sometimes even bidding the price for renewable energy credits down to negative levels. New programs are getting started in California and New York, while Maryland and Hawaii join a dozen or so states with legislation supporting shared solar. More utilities including municipal, cooperative, and investor-owned have stepped up to the plate with voluntary programs. Because solar gardens have something to offer customers, developers, and utilities alike, the community solar sector has become the fastest growing of the U.S. solar industry, expected to grow to 5000 megawatts or more by 2020. In a recent paper, the Department of Energy estimates that shared solar could make up 32% to 49% of the distributed PV market in 2020. Given the increasing share of solar in the renewables market, shared solar will become an important part of a climate solution.

The federal government has been active as well in promoting shared solar. The Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative issued $15 million in grants to encourage development in the sector. The White House announced the National Community Solar Partnership, bringing together government, developers, nonprofits, and industry groups while establishing funding for projects supplying affordable housing. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has continued to support the industry with research and how-to guides.

Policy Changes

The potential for the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to expire at the end of 2016 is roiling the U.S. solar industry. While the credit was an engine that drove the solar industry’s growth, substantial transaction costs associated with tax equity make it an inefficient way to fund projects, particularly the modest-sized arrays typical of community solar. The silver lining of an ITC expiration would be the simplification of the business structures needed to operate a community solar garden. Nonprofits and cooperatives could manage shared solar systems and take advantage of state and federal securities law exemptions. In the meantime, recent IRS rulings will allow community solar subscribers to claim the tax credits for their ownership stake. Business models and software can be made available to community groups as “open source”.

In the international realm, cooperatively owned solar power is commonplace in countries such as Great Britain and Australia, while unheard of in other countries, including China. With increased cooperation between China and the United States in the prelude to the Paris climate talks, Asia’s dense cities represent a huge potential market for offsite solar PV. In the developing world, community microgrids for rural electrification are offering opportunities to thousands.

Encompassing All Technologies

Community ownership models can be applied to assets other than solar panels, such as wind or other renewables, energy storage, or microgrids. Battery storage news has been dominated in recent months by Tesla’s PowerWall, using lithium-ion technology similar to electric car batteries. This has not, however, stopped the continuing drumbeat of innovation in this field, including metal air, flow, and organic batteries. The jury is still out on what will be the dominant chemistry long-term, but with so many technological avenues to explore a cost-effective leader should emerge. Ways for owners to monetize the benefits of batteries to the grid at large must be found.

Microgrids promise local, renewable energy that can be reliably produced even if the larger grid goes down. By being able to operate independently, a microgrid can operate as both a load center and a virtual power plant dependent on supply and demand conditions. It can deploy generation, storage, and demand management to make its supply or demand predictable an hour or more into the future, a boon for utilities that must schedule power purchases. The microgrid business has been rapidly growing, with particular interest from areas that have recently experienced extreme weather events.

Working With the Land, Anticipating the Future Grid

It’s important to select good host sites that support the grid, are built environmentally responsibly, and are ready for potential developments such as microgrids including vehicle charging and stationary storage. Utilities can direct solar development to areas where it will minimize grid congestion and infrastructure costs. Because solar energy production takes up a lot of space, it’s important to focus on sites with multiple uses, such as crops or grazing (“agrivoltaics”), parking lots, or rooftops. Solar arrays may also be located in sites where land use requires a buffer, such as airports, water treatment plants, or roadsides. It would be useful to include a solar garden on each feeder, with participants on the same line, to reduce transmission losses and potentially support conversion to a microgrid. Having a solar garden in the same community as participants fosters a sense of local ownership and keeps money local - that’s why we call it community solar.

Excitement around community solar is growing, and solar gardens are sprouting up everywhere! Each project has a passionate champion, a “solar gardener” who is part project manager, part community organizer. Solar gardeners are building a grassroots movement to keep energy and money local while protecting the climate, air, and water. Maybe that’s you, or maybe you’d like to get started… Let’s do it!

Recently, I took some time to travel to China and learn about the potential for the international market. Given the exciting community solar environment today, I am restarting the Solar Gardens blog. The format will be a bit different, including a weekly post on an interesting topic in community solar, and a weekly news round-up. I hope to improve, finding new ways to provide value and new partners to work with to better serve the community solar community. Let’s work together to make this grand vision possible.

First solar garden completed in Xcel's Minnesota region | Star Tribune

"The first community solar garden has sprouted in Xcel Energy's Minnesota service area — on a farm."

"Utility officials, the project developer and its customers held an open house Friday at Vetter Farms near Kasota, Minn., where 96 ground-mounted solar panels now offset electricity used on the farm and by nearby homes."

Read more at Star Tribune:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NREL Paper on Shared Solar

The recent NREL paper "Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation" gives a good glimpse at the potential of community solar in the United States. 

The market potential is clearly enormous in the near future. The authors assert that shared solar will account for just about all the growth in the U.S. solar market after the Investment Tax Credit expires at the end of 2016. "Combining the potential market penetration of the shared solar business model in the residential and non-residential sectors [...] we estimate that shared solar could represent 32%–49% of the distributed PV market in 2020, growing cumulative PV deployment by 5.5– 11.0 GW and representing $8.2–$16.3 billion of cumulative investment." That's a lot of solar gardens!

The paper recounts research using LIDAR models suggesting that about 50% of U.S. households cannot host a PV array of 1.5kW or greater. This is significantly less than the 75% number typically used in the community solar industry, and should be considered a lower bound, as it does not allow for poor quality roofs, historic districts, and the like. 

New IRS rulings make the tax picture look more hopeful for subscribers to be able to claim their own tax credits, although this will only matter until the likely ITC expiration.

- Joy Hughes

Read the paper at NREL:

Vermont Introduces Community Solar Financing | CESA

"While it’s true that solar is more competitive than ever, it is still not an equal-access commodity; and competitive pricing may not help much if you don’t own property or enjoy a good credit rating. For this reason a number of CESA member states have expressed interest in programs, such as community solar, that could help make the technology accessible to those who have not heretofore been able to access it."

"Now Vermont has taken the concept a step farther, with a financing program for community solar projects that will buy down interest rates for residents who need to borrow in order to participate. The Vermont Community Solar Loan Program, administered by the Vermont Public Service Department’s Clean Energy Development Fund, will provide affordable financing to help low-income Vermonters buy an ownership interest in community solar projects with up to 500 kW capacity. The interest rate buy-down will be funded through support from the SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge II, and the loans will be administered through the Vermont State Employees Credit Union. The program will offer unsecured or secured loans up to $40,000, with terms up to 15 years."

New York Encourages Pairing of Community Microgrids and Community Solar | Microgrid Knowledge

"New York officials are encouraging cities and towns that are planning community microgrids to couple them with community solar or ‘shared renewables.’"

"Community microgrids and community solar are viewed as natural brethren, given that both are local energy alternatives with communal benefits. Some companies are forming a new business model around the idea of bringing community solar to microgrids."

Read more at Microgrid Knowledge:

CEC set to launch Oregon's first 'community solar' project |

"Central Electric Cooperative will ceremonially launch Oregon's first 'community solar' project with a 'panel-hanging' next week near its service center in southeast Bend."

"The community solar project lets CEC members voluntarily share in the costs and benefits of the 200,000-watt installation on approximately 1.7 acres of land adjacent to the co-op’s Bend Service Center"


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How can large-scale solar power reduce pressure on farm land? | Mother Nature Network

It's all through our Founding Principles - Tree Preservation, Share the Land, Shade Over Pavement, Be a Good Neighbor... What it comes down to is multiple uses for the space taken up by solar panels. "Agrivoltaics" is a term for raising plants or animals on land occupied by solar farms. It's great to see this happening more and more!

Mother Nature Network has a great article on this:

Red tape at Xcel Energy ensnares Minnesota community solar developments

"Artists, students, activists and other community members organized by Community Power and its partners are gathering this morning for a slow-motion demonstration at Xcel Energy's Headquarters. The protest is in response to the utility's staggering delays in processing community solar gardens. At the 11:30 am demonstration, participants will ask Xcel to live up to their "responsible by nature" slogan and comply with their legal obligation to approve solar applications within 90 days."
"As of October 5, 2015, Xcel has received 1,662 solar garden applications, of which it has deemed 607 complete, five have been approved. Only one very small (35kW, about enough for six homes) solar garden has been constructed to date."
Read more at Solar Power World

Monday, November 9, 2015

Community Solar up and running at Lopez School | Islands Weekly

"The Community Solar installation at Lopez School is complete and the new solar panels will be supplying 9.9 kilowatts of electricity to the school ongoing."

"More than 70 contributors invested or donated a total of $35,000 to purchase and install the panels. Those investing will receive approximately a 10 percent payback per year and the school will receive the electricity generated for free. After ten years investor principal will have been returned and the school will own the panels outright."

Read more at Islands Weekly:

IRS ruling could boost community solar | Community Power Network

"Community solar in the U.S. is flourishing as never before. An important new ruling by the IRS may serve to accelerate this growth. Homeowners are eligible for a 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar installed on their roofs, under IRS Section 25D. This credit was understood to only be available for rooftop solar owners. But, a recent IRS ruling found that the owner of an offsite solar array could also be eligible for this credit. The IRS ruled that Roland Marx, a co-founder and member of Vermont’s Boardman Hill Solar Farm, is eligible for the ITC. This is despite the fact that the energy his system generates comes from a remote solar array and not from his roof. This ruling could have a serious impact on the speed at which projects like the Boardman Hill Solar Farm develop. To understand why, it is necessary to understand how Mr. Marx’s solar ownership works."

Read more at Community Power Network:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Rise of Community Solar: An Opportunity for Energy Equity | Cornell Policy Review

"Solar and low-income energy assistance programs have long been seen as incompatible. With the recent boom in the solar energy market, however, these programs have begun to converge. Increased attention to the socio-economic benefits of solar energy has driven the desire to address participatory barriers within the market. Improving the accessibility of solar energy to low-income populations has become a possibility with the onset of the community solar movement. Once a hope, it is now a tangible reality that clean energy will cease to be a luxury in the United States."

Read more at Cornell Policy Review:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Joy Goes To Washington D.C. - The National Community Solar Partnership

Community solar is taking off in the United States! The White House and Department of Energy have taken notice and are bringing experts together to take it to the next level.

On November 17th I will be representing the Solar Gardens Institute at the National Community Solar Partnership workshop in Washington, DC. The Partnership’s mission is to "leverage the momentum in the public and private sector to expand solar access to new markets". The NCSP is convening federal agencies, state governments, academia, utilities, nonprofits, and industry to "assess market barriers and catalyze deployment in low and moderate (LMI) communities."

The workshop will be an opportunity for SGI to represent the community of communities reached by the blog and mailing list. I will be discussing new developments in IRS tax policy that will allow solar garden subscribers to claim their own tax credits, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the likely expiration of the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC). 

The Washington, D.C. City Council has approved a community renewables program, which is currently in a rule making process. I will also be traveling to New York, where a new statewide shared solar program is coming soon. Simplified business models made possible by federal policy changes could benefit communities in both jurisdictions.

Let's think big - what are the big policy opportunities that could create “quantum leap” in community solar, bringing a solar garden to every city, town, and rural district in America? How can every state, every utility offer the opportunity for every American to go solar? Reply to this message with your ideas.

Help Joy get to Washington, D.C.! Please donate to the Solar Gardens Institute to make this work possible. (A donation of air miles would also be valuable.)

Many thanks,

Joy Hughes

P.S. After a hiatus, the solar gardens blog is coming back! Look for a new weekly format, as community solar is taking off in the U.S. and worldwide. We'll be taking a close look at the policy, projects, and people who are creating an equitable, low-carbon future worldwide!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Community solar gets green light in ‘fracking village’ victory for Balcombe

     Big energy development is often imposed on local communities, who find they have little say in the matter. Fracking, nuclear, big transmission lines - or even oversize, poorly sited solar or wind development - can lead people to fight back. The folks in Balcombe set up a blockade to keep the frackers out - but they also took power into their own hands and created a locally owned solution. So the Chiddingly Farm solar power station was born.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Colorado House Approves Extending Solar Garden Service Areas

H-Winter, Faith(March 23) – The House gave voice-vote approval this morning to a bill by Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, to expand siting options for community solar gardens.

Demand for solar gardens is high and growing, but is being constrained by rising land values and construction costs. HB15-1284, sponsored by Reps. Winter and Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, would allow community solar gardens to cross county lines, with customers in one county able to plant solar gardens in a contiguous county.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance -- Helping Low-Income Families Switch To Solar | CleanTechnica

Even low-income families now have a path to embracing solar energy — well, at least in some parts of the country anyway — thanks to work being done by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance.

The rather grizzled organization — started 15 years ago — has been working to create a system whereby families on the federal government's energy assistance program can receive their electricity via solar technologies, rather than dirty fossil fuels.

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SEPA Awarded U.S. Department of Energy $700K Award to Conduct Community Solar Study | AltEnergyMag Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) today announced that it has received a $705,830 competitive award from the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative for a first-of-its-kind project aimed at accelerating the spread of community solar energy programs across the country. 

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blue Skies Ahead For Shared Solar In New York | Solar One

SGI Alum Elana Bulman is working on shared solar in New York City with Solar One!


Whether they rent their home, own a condo or have a shaded roof, many New Yorkers are currently unable to install solar energy systems. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, only 22-27% of residential roof space is suitable for on-site solar production. This leaves the majority of homes in the dark, without the economic and environmental benefits associated with solar.

2015 could be the year this changes.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

China Falling Short of Distributed Solar Goals for 2014

Chinese project developers supported the government's drive towards distributed generation. However, given the prevailing administrative, financial, technical, and operational complexity of distributed solar PV compared with large-scale ground mounted projects it did not come as a surprise that in the first nine months of 2014 distributed solar installations fell very short of its expectations. According to NEA figures, between Q1 and Q3 just 2.45GW of utility-scale and 1.34GW of distributed solar PV projects were realised.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Re-Volv Launches Third Crowdfunded Solar Project

San Francisco, California – January 13, 2015 – San Francisco based nonprofit, RE-volv, launched its thirdcrowdfunding campaign last week for its innovative revolving solar energy fund. The campaign, hosted on popular crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, will finance a 36kW solar energy system for the Other Avenues Food Cooperative in San Francisco's Outer Sunset neighborhood.


"I've been working on this project for eight years, and it's been difficult to find the right fit for financing this solar project," said Other Avenues president Darryl Dea. "So when RE-volv came around it was a perfect fit for us because not only do they work with nonprofits and co-ops, but we're able to contribute to this fund which will further create more solar projects."


RE-volv raises donations through crowdfunding to finance 20 year lease agreements for solar energy projects for community-based organizations.  As community organizations pay RE-volv back, RE-volv reinvests the money into additional projects creating a self-sustaining revolving fund called the "Solar Seed Fund." Lease payments from RE-volv's first two projects have reduced the amount RE-volv needs to crowdfund for this project by $7,000.


"Other Avenues has been serving its community for forty years and has developed a tight knit community of supporters. We're thrilled to be offering this community a way to take action on climate change and at the same time help their neighborhood grocery co-op" said RE-volv's Executive Director, Andreas Karelas.


This unique partnership is an example of community based solutions that are leading the climate movement. The campaign draws on the People's Climate March of September 2014, when 400,000 marched, demanding solutions to climate change. Crowdfunding for solar gives people around the world the opportunity to help drive climate solutions by supporting a revolving fund for clean energy in communities.


Other Avenues is a worker-owned cooperative dedicated to workplace democracy and maintaining a healthy planet by serving local, organic foods and sustainable lifestyle products. By going solar, they can further their commitment to sustainability and save $335,000 over the life of the solar system. In under a week, the campaign has already raised over 17% of its $48,000 goal from over 70 people to finance the 36kW system. This project will be RE-volv's largest to date.



RE-volv has received support for its work from the San Francisco Foundation, Audubon's Toyota Together Green, Patagonia, the Rose Foundation, and the Yahoo Employee Foundation. Aveda, KIND Snacks and Whole Foods have all supported the campaign with in-kind support.


Individuals can make tax deductible donations to the campaign


About RE-volv
Founded in 2011, RE-volv, a nonprofit organization, empowers people to finance community-based solar energy projects by donating to a revolving fund. RE-volv raises awareness about solar energy through its community-based solar projects and outreach programs.


About Other Avenues Food Cooperative

Other Avenues is a worker-owned cooperative serving the community since 1974. Located in San Francisco's Outer Sunset neighborhood, the co-op focuses on promoting sustainable lifestyles through the selling of natural, local and organic foods.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Community Solar Guidance Released for Consumers | Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES)

Here at MRES we have been flooded with calls from people, businesses, and communities interested in becoming subscribers to community solar gardens. These calls have also been flooding into the Department of Energy Resources (DER), the Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTs)and many other offices. In order to help address these questions and concerns for this new model of solar CERTs, DER and MRES have collaborated to create three different pieces to help everyone become an educated consumer!

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