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Community Solar: An Alternative for Commercial Businesses

Community Solar was introduced to allow individuals and businesses within a community to participate in solar PPA’s. Previously, these individuals and businesses could not install/host solar installations, so solar was not a viable solution. With community solar, any individual or entity that qualifies can purchase solar power from a system installed locally.

There is a growth opportunity for community-based solar in cities where many of its’ people live in multi-unit buildings or do not own the building they work or live in. Community solar projects have the ability to reduce the cost of PV systems on a per-watt basis while allowing more people to receive the benefits of the sun’s energy. It also allows for multiple individuals or businesses to invest in a larger-scale PV system. Community solar can give non-profits, commercial and municipals the access to solar that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), only about 25% of businesses and homes have the ability to install a solar array on their rooftop.

The Benefits of community solar:

Some of the benefits of community solar, especially for commercial buildings include the following:

• Systems can be installed in optimal locations
• Achieve lower cost/Watt through economies of scale
• Virtual net metering
• Group billing, and joint ownership

States begin to adopt community solar legislation

Colorado was the first state in 2010 to create a pilot program for community solar, called the Community Solar Gardens Act. This act was created to give residents and businesses access to the same rebates and incentives on-site solar has, through virtual net metering.
California, following in the footsteps of Colorado, hopes to pass SB 43 in order to launch a 500 megawatt (MW) pilot program for 2014.

SB 43 will benefit scores of Californians who are currently unable to install renewables on their property — residents who rent homes and apartments, business owners who lease office space — as well as remove the obstacles that prevent schools and local governments from investing in off-site renewable energy.

In addition, the community solar act could help California reach the outlined goals in the Renewable Portfolio Standard, create more jobs and improve a community’s access to renewable energy.

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