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.