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Authors Tom Stanton
Published 2021
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
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Definition[edit | edit source]

What is community solar? Definitions vary by program and program type. Most definitions focus on local solar facilities that are shared by multiple community subscribers, who each receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. The key ideas in most definitions are:

(1) the community location for the solar facilities, typically not far from the participating customers and often where subscribers will see the system in their travels around their own community.

(2) shared ownership, by lease, direct purchase, or subscription, where participants are offered options, or what are often called shares of a solar system. Shares often range in price from as little as a few hundred dollars to as much as several thousand, and are often describe in numbers of solar panels or in Watts (or kilowatts) of production capacity.

(3) shared benefits, where the output of the solar system is shared with all of the participating customers, based on each customer's share of the total production capability.

(4) benefits presented as utility bill credits, so that for tax purposes they do not have to be considered as income subject to income taxes.

Learning the basics[edit | edit source]

U.S. States and Territories Community Solar Legislation[edit | edit source]

So far 21 states have passed legislation about community solar

  • New Mexico Community Solar Act. New Mexico became the 21st State to pass community solar legislation, enacted March 18, 2021. New Mexico Senate Bill 84,
    • The New Mexico Act provides that the Public Regulation Commission shall establish rules for implementing community solar, and that at least "thirty percent of electricity produced from each community solar facility [shall] be reserved for low-income customers and low-income service organizations. The commission shall issue guidelines to ensure the carve-out is achieved each year and develop a list of low-income service organizations and programs that may pre-qualify low-income customers... ." (Section 7(B)(3), on p. 10).

Business Models[edit | edit source]

There are many different successful models already for Community Solar projects. This section will describe the different models concisely, and link to additional information about them. Included will be differences based on:

  • system ownership,
  • financing mechanisms, and
  • off-takers for the solar energy.

For the moment, this is a placeholder inviting others to include model types and provide links to related information.

  • Utility programs in states with laws or rules governing community solar
    • investor owned utilities
    • municipal utilities
    • cooperative (member-owned) utilities
  • Utility programs in states with no establishing community solar law or rules, also known as "voluntary" utilty programs
    • investor owned utilities
    • municipal utilities
    • cooperative (member-owned) utilities
  • Project developer led programs
  • NGO-led programs
  • Community solar cooperative business models

Related Appropedia Pages[edit | edit source]

Community energy USA

Community solar financing mechanisms

Community solar literature review

Energy Zones Mapping Tool -- A free-to-use Geographic Information System database for the U.S. which includes data layers for analyzing opportunities for energy systems development, including biomass, coal, geothermal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, storage, water, and wind.