In a municipal utility community solar array, the utility sponsors the construction of a central solar array, and customers subscribe to receive energy from the array. A community solar array offers several benefits compared to multiple customer installing their own system at their residence or business. Economies of scale can be achieved in a community solar array that drive down the installation cost compared to multiple smaller arrays. Costs are also reduced by eliminating multiple interconnection points and combining them into one. In addition, the design of a larger array can be optimized to generate a greater amount of energy for a given capacity compared to an equal capacity of small systems. For example, a residential system may be installed on a roof that does not have the best orientation and has partial shading, whereas the community solar array most likely will be installed with optimal orientation and no shading.
A community solar project can provide access to solar energy to people who are unable to install solar at their home or business. Improper roof orientation, shading, and restrictive covenants may make rooftop solar unfeasible for many people. In addition, a community solar array reduces the risk to customers. A customer may be able to participate in a community solar array by subscribing to a single panel for several hundred dollars rather than investing thousands of dollars in a rooftop system.
Finally, a community solar will likely establish the utility and community as a leader in green energy development. Community solar arrays are highly visible, and participants take pride in the investment they have made in solar energy.
The speakers at the Community Solar Workshop covered a wide range of topics including the basic utility-led community solar models, developing an RFP, navigating the legal issues regarding community solar, and options for turnkey community solar projects. Participants also learned about the first municipal utility community solar project in Iowa developed by Traer Municipal Utilities and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s community solar program.
The presentations from the conference are posted on IAMU’s website: http://www.iamu.org/index.cfm?nodeID=79560&audienceID=1 . Video recordings of the presentations are on the IAMU YouTube site, https://www.youtube.com/user/IAMUVideo
If you are interested in learning more about community solar, please contact Joel Logan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515.289.1999.