How-to Guides Encourage Growth of Solar Communities

It just got a lot easier for communities, homeowners, and developers to adopt neighborhood and community shared solar energy projects. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, A Guide to Community Solar, and its sister publication, The Solarize Guidebook, have been updated with more recent case studies, fresher statistics, and the newest legislation.

A Guide to Community Solar shows how people, including those who can’t easily have rooftop PV—renters, condo owners, and those whose rooftops are not suitable for solar—can participate in a collective PV system. Community shared solar—the “one system, many people” approach—is still in its infancy even though advances in solar technology, increases in federal and state tax incentives, and creative new financing models have made these projects financially feasible.

This easy-to-use resource helps navigate a dizzying array of choices on the path to success. The information in A Guide to Community Solar is organized around three sponsorship models: utility-sponsored projects, projects sponsored by businesses formed for the purpose of producing community solar power, and nonprofit-sponsored projects. The document discusses what each model has in common, and what is unique.

The Solarize Guidebook offers neighborhoods a plan for getting volume discounts when making group purchases of rooftop solar through a coordinated program. This resource provides a road map for project planners and solar advocates who want to convert interest into action, break through market barriers, and permanently transform the market for residential solar installations in their communities.

The publication details the original and wildly successful Solarize campaign in Portland, Oregon, and offers program refinements from other solar projects based on the “many systems, many people” model. Drawing on actual experiences, The Solarize Guidebook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers to replicate successes in Portland, such as boiling down the many choices to “yes-no” decisions for consumers. Over the last 3 years, this approach has helped Portland add more than 1.7 megawatts of distributed photovoltaics while establishing a strong solar installation economy.

Taken together, these two guides can encourage growth of sustainable communities that improve people’s lives by:

Helping individuals and groups address barriers to going solar
Increasing the number of people who can participate in a solar project
Avoiding misinterpretation and mistakes about structure and securities law.

Both how-to manuals focus on projects designed to increase access to solar energy and to reduce upfront costs for participants, but each highlights a different approach. Find out which option might be best for you—and your neighbors.


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Appeared in U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Newsletter on May 17, 2012.

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