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Community Solar
Overview
Touring Ashland Community Solar
Touring Ashland Community Solar

Community renewable energy projects include projects where community members pool investments and benefits into renewable energy development. The solar industry has opened the way for new financing and ownership models for these projects.

Below is a list of public resources for multi-party investment into a single, larger solar array. In this structure, a solar electric (photovoltaic) system can be owned— in whole or in part—by community members who share either the monetary value of the produced energy or the energy itself. This model allows community members who do not have the right property— such as apartment owners or homeowners with shaded properties—to invest in a site that is advantageous for solar resource development. 

The term “community solar” is used broadly to describe bulk pricing models, such as Solarize, that reduce homeowner or business-owner costs to install solar on their own property. Community solar should not be confused with voluntary programs sponsored by a utility. Customers pay a premium on their power bill to support renewable energy, salmon restoration, or another community goal. This model is also distinct from investment in a solar development company that builds utility-scale solar facilities and sells the power to a utility at avoided cost rates under a power purchase agreement.

Benefits from a community solar project may be delivered in the form of an energy credit with a utility, a credit at a business, or direct payments. In other states, a community solar project’s energy credit is distributed to the participants using a process called “virtual net metering.” Under a standard net metering arrangement, a home or business installs a solar array on its own property. The energy produced by the array either serves the electric load on-site or spills over on to the grid. If solar production extends beyond the on-site power demand, the utility pays the customer for its spill-over with a bill credit or payment. In a virtual net metering arrangement, investors would receive credit on their electric bills for energy produced at the off-site facility and at a rate proportional to their investment. Virtual net metering is not currently available in Oregon.

 
Guidebook and Reports
 
A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private & Non-Profit Project Development (Northwest SEED, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, US DOE) 
   
Community Renewables: Model Program Rules (Interstate Renewable Energy Council)
 
Creating and Implementing Your Community Solar Plan (Minnesota Department of Commerce) 
 
The Northwest Community Solar Guide (Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Northwest SEED) 
 
Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments  (SunShot Initiative, US Department of Energy)

 
Web Resources
   
Community Solar (Northwest SEED) 
 
Policy Toolkit for Community Programs (The Vote Solar Initiative) 
 
SunShot Iniative (USDOE EERE)
 

 
Projects
 
Ashland Solar Pioneers II (Ashland, OR)
 
Bright Tucson Community Solar (Tucson Electric Power, AZ)
 
Brewster Community Solar Garden (Brewster, MA)
 
Colorado Solar Gardens (Clean Energy Collective, CO)
 
Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative (Edmonds, WA)
 
Ellensburg Community Renewable Park (Ellensburg, WA)
 
Falmouth Community Solar Garden (Falmouth, MA)
 
Seattle’s Sustainable Energy Future (Seattle, WA)
 
University Park Solar (University Park, MA)
 
Winthrop Community Solar Project (Winthrop, WA)

 
Legislation
 
Washington
SB6170
Environmental Tax Incentives
- Provides exemptions from sales tax for renewable energy systems (within limits).
- Defines “Community Solar Project.”
SB 6658
Community Solar Projects- Cost Recovery Incentives
- Expands the definition of “Administrator.”
- Caps Community Solar at 75kw system size.
- Expands definition of Community Solar so that they are not considered utilities, and are therefore eligible for state incentives.
- Caps incentive payments to participants at $5,000 a year.
Colorado
HB 1342
Concerning measures to encourage additional investment in Solar energy generation facilities, and, in connection therewith, authorizing the creation of Community Solar Gardens.
- Directs the Public Utilities Commission to adopt new rules under which standard offers apply to Community Solar.
- Amends existing legislative declaration to state that it is in the public interest to allow renters and low-income utility customers to own interests in solar generation facilities, and to make these interests portable and transferable.
- Exempts Community Solar Gardens from the definition of utility.
 
4 CCR 723-3
Rules Regulating Electric Utilities
- Provides definitions for Community Solar Gardens, CSG owners, CSG subscribers, Subscriber Organizations and Subscriptions.
- Defines “Rural Renewable Project” and provides increased incentives for Rural Renewable Projects.
-Utilities must allow renewable to offset an entities usage up to 120% of total electrical usage.
- When calculating 100% utilities must aggregate all meters serving a location at the individual’s request.
- Utilities must roll over excess electric credits month to month indefinitely.
 
Rules Regulating Community Solar Gardens 
- No individual may own more than 40% of system.
- Limits subscription size to 120% annual consumption.
- Rules regulating geographic location of subscribers.
- Rules regulating the transfer of subscriptions.
- Requirement to monitor electric generation.
- Rules regulating billing credits and unsubscribed shares.
- Rules regulating the distribution of Renewable Energy Credits (REC’s)
- Rules regulating the Rural Renewable REC multiplier.
 
California
(Proposed) SB 843
An act to amend Sections 216 and 218 of, to repeal Section 2826.5 of, and to repeal and add Chapter 7.5 (commencing with Section 2830) of Part 2 of Division 1 of, the Public Utilities Code, relating to energy.
- Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory jurisdiction over public utilities, including electrical corporations.
- This bill would repeal these provisions and enact the Community-Based Renewable Energy Self-Generation Program.
- This bill would authorize a retail customer of an electrical corporation to purchase a subscription in a Community Facility for the purpose of receiving a bill credit to offset all of a portion of the customers’ electricity usage.
- Under existing law a violation of the PUC act is a crime.
- This bill would provide that any corporation or person engaged directly or indirectly in developing, producing, delivering, participating in, or selling interests in, a community facility is not a public utility or electrical corporation solely by reason of engaging in any of those activities.