Posted on Wednesday February 8, 2017
Grid performance and reliability is the primary goal for every utility. Given an electricity delivery system that has operated for the most part on 1950’s technology, delivering on that promise is a challenging and a cost-intensive endeavor. And with the proliferation of distributed energy resources, smaller local generating power sources versus massive centralized power plants, we are requiring more of the energy grid day by day.
What should not go unnoticed nor be undervalued is the popularity of community shared solar, the fastest growing segment of the solar industry. Community shared solar brings new revenue sources for utilities and valuable develop-funded enhancements to the distribution infrastructure that reduce pressure on rates and ratepayers to cover those costs. This serves as a benefit to all customers in a participating utility’s territory, which in turn is a benefit to the community at large.
To launch a community solar project, typically a 500 kW to 5 MW solar PV array, a developer must first pay tens of thousands of dollars to the utility to connect the array onto the grid. Because the power distribution system was not initially designed for two-way traffic, developers must make sure the location where the facility plugs into the grid, the nearest sub-station, has the proper technology to handle the new energy load coming onto the grid. When it does not, which is often the case, it is incumbent on the project developer to finance any repair or upgrade deemed necessary by the utility.
Local power generation is typically more efficient and passes on fewer costs from transmission losses and other factors. Some contend, though, that rooftop solar systems also reduce the pool of customers paying for these grid upgrades. Conversely, community solar is paying—directly—to improving the grid, reducing utility costs in doing so, and therefore reducing the need for rate increases.
With community solar forecasted to reach 11 gigawatts (GW) of capacity by 2020, from just over 300 MW today, the community benefit in community solar will indeed be considerable.
Join the campaign to bring community solar to every neighborhood in the nation. Gain access to the tools that will make your projects a success. Share the details of your developments for others to see and repeat your achievements. Contribute to your community by providing the choice of clean and affordable electricity to everyone.