Expanding Community Solar

For many potential solar customers, installing a system at their home or business is not possible or desirable. On-site systems tend to be expensive to install and they require that you own or have access to adequate, unshaded space. Community solar programs give customers an alternative to placing solar on their property by enabling them to purchase solar power generated at an offsite solar energy system. Community solar programs can be managed by for profit or nonprofit organizations, but are most often utility-driven.  While the number of community solar programs across the country has grown, there continues to be enormous opportunity to expand, improve and replicate these programs nationwide.

What is Community Solar?

The Smart Electric Power Alliance defines Community Solar as “a voluntary program whereby a solar-electric system provides power and/or financial benefit to multiple community members in which community members may or may not own the system itself.”

Through SMP, work is underway to enable more people, businesses and communities to participate in community solar programs by:

  • Developing and implementing programs in markets that have not previously had community solar.
  • Identifying best practices and consumer preferences to improve upon the existing program models.
  • Standardizing community solar models to reduce costs and simplify program development and implementation.
  • Providing technical assistance to expand and improve utility-administered community solar programs.
  • Enhancing the value of community solar programs by integrating demand response.

Examples of Our Work:

Helping more utilities offer community solar programs is one way that the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) is working to make solar more accessible to more people. SEPA is developing a set of Community Solar Program Models and helping utilities around the country to implement them. Learn more here.

In Illinois the Cook County Department of Environmental Control, is implementing five replicable community solar projects to serve as case studies and enable participation by more Cook County residents and businesses including seniors, low-income, apartment and condominium residents who cannot benefit from conventional solar PV. Learn more here.

The Community Solar Value Project, led by Extensible Energy, is working to create a new business model to increase the scale, reach and value of utility-based community solar by integrating demand response and energy storage. Learn more here.