Shared solar: do you pre-qualify?

Choose any of the following that may apply.

A) Do you have a shaded roof or one that is not structurally designed to bear load?
B) Do you rent or share your roof with other households or businesses?
C) Is your home or business in an historic district or one with strict aesthetic building codes?
D) Do you have little interest in maintaining an on-site solar energy system?

If you are interested in solar energy and answered yes to any of the above questions – Congratulations! – you are officially pre-qualified to participate in a shared solar program. Shared solar, also known as community solar, allows people to pool their resources into a shared system, without having to host a system on their own property. It provides a fitting solution to the numerous obstacles to renewable energy adoption, some of which were laid out in the above quiz.

Shared solar programs are sprouting up around the country with remarkable speed – we know because we have been tracking their progress. In fact, this Shared Solar Program Comparison Chart includes the basic details of the programs we have compiled in collaboration with the Solar Electric Power Association. We are tracking them, not only to understand how program structure is evolving for shared solar, but also to provide a resource for utilities and others who are contemplating starting a shared renewable energy program of their own.

Of course, this chart should be accompanied by a disclaimer: as these programs are always evolving and new programs are cropping up each month, the data will continue to evolve. To keep it up to date, we will need your help. Do you know of a project that is missing from the chart or see information that is incorrect or outdated? Please let us know so we can update it.

As you can probably tell from the diversity of programs listed, shared solar programs can be set up to confer a variety of benefits to participating members. The overwhelming majority of programs provide those benefits through a utility bill credit mechanism. IREC believes this is the easiest way for participants to receive a shared solar benefit – in this respect, community solar acts much like net metering.

What can we learn from this glimpse at the shared solar program list?

So far in our data collection process, we have found that shared solar programs exist in 16 states, and the majority of these, 37%, are initiated or in partnership with an electric cooperative. By comparison, 18% are at investor owned utilities (IOUs), 23% are at municipal utilities and 21% have evolved from another partnership, be it a group of investors, non-profit or school. However, because of their much larger customer base, IOUs generally have a much larger program size, averaging 3.3 Megawatts (MW). By comparison, municipal utilities average about 430 kilowatts (kW), if you exclude the 20 MW program outlier in Arizona’s Salt River Project. Cooperatives average around 250 kW for system size.

Lastly, you might already be aware of IREC’s Community Renewables Model Program Rules. Through our continued efforts, working with utilities, developers and advocates across the country, it is clear that the face of shared renewables has evolved considerably in the past two years, since we published this model. As a result, IREC is updating its model program rules to reflect emerging trends, bill credit valuation methodologies and new information. Keep an eye out for these model rules in the coming weeks. You will not want to miss them.


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