Expanding Solar Deployment
Expanding Solar Deployment
Community solar, also known as shared solar, represents a promising frontier in the expansion and acceleration of solar deployment nationwide. Community solar programs give consumers an alternative to placing solar on their own property and enable multiple participants to benefit from electricity generated by a shared solar energy system (typically an off-site system). A recent report suggests that, between 2015 and 2020, cumulative community solar installations could constitute 5.5-11 Gigawatts (GW) of solar PV for residential and non-residential customers. While the potential for long-term growth is considerable, challenges remain for future widespread deployment of community solar.
This toolkit provides a suite of resources to help guide and inform the development of and investment in community solar, while also equipping diverse stakeholders with useful tools to navigate relevant policy issues, program design & implementation, as well as consumer & community engagement. As identified, the toolkit is intended to serve different audiences, including utilities (e.g., investor-owned utilities, municipals, rural electric cooperatives), policy makers (e.g., legislators, regulators, government agencies), investors and financiers, the renewable energy industry, and end-users (e.g., residential, non-residential). The toolkit may also be helpful for community groups and local governments interested in advancing community solar in their respective localities.
The toolkit is organized into five sections: Fundamentals of Community Solar, Policy Tools, Program Design & Implementation Tools, Finance Tools, and Consumer & Community Engagement Tools. Some tools may be cross-cutting among the different sections but are only listed once to minimize redundancy.
Please note: The primary focus of this toolkit is on community solar models wherein a single solar PV system provides benefits to multiple participating customers. “Solarize” or other PV bulk purchasing models for rooftop solar are not addressed explicitly herein. This is not intended to be an exhaustive set of tools. This toolkit is a working document and additions will be made as new resources are created and/or made available. Please email Nicole Denering, Program Officer at Institute for Sustainable Communities, at email@example.com with your comments and ideas.
The tools in this section provide a primer on community solar and an overview of key concepts.
|Website||Community Solar Overview||An overview of community solar program elements and related issues.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments, End-Users|
|Website||Solar Energy Resource Center||DOE curated online database of resources for a broad spectrum of solar topics.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments, End-Users|
The resources in this section provide a deeper dive into important policy issues impacting community solar that decision-makers and stakeholders should take into account. Several tools in this section correspond to and impact Program Design & Implementation.
|Report||Policies to Support Community Solar Initiatives: Best Practice to Enhance Net Metering||This report examines various policy options to enable community solar, including virtual net metering, group net metering, meter aggregation, and group billing. The community solar policies of five states – Colorado, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont – are offered as community solar-enabling policy case studies.||Policy Makers, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments|
|Report||Community-Scale Solar: Why developers and buyers focus on this high-potential market segment||This report highlights the potential for community-scale solar (0.5–5MW projects) and the key attributes and opportunities associated with this untapped market.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments, End-Users|
|Report||The Ecology of Community Solar Gardening: A ‘Companion’ Planting Guide||This report provides an overview of community solar activities around the country, highlighting state activities as well as utility-led initiatives.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors|
|Report||Virtual Net Metering Policy Background and Summary Report||This report provides a comprehensive summary of California’s Virtual Net Metering Tariff for general market (i.e., non-LMI) multi-tenant units and a overview of other state VNEM and community solar policies across the country.|
|Presentation||Tools You Can Use for Community Solar Webinar||This presentation includes slides from the Tools You Can Use for Community Solar webinar hosted by ISC and IREC.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments|
|Video||Tools You Can Use for Community Solar||This webinar recording provides an overview of the newly created Community Solar Toolkit, as well as case studies by SMP awardees featuring innovative tools and approaches to advance community solar projects and programs across diverse markets.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments|
|Case Study||Crowdfunding Models Brings Solar to Community Organizations in Appalachia||This case study provides an overview of Solar Holler’s work under the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership to develop a creative crowdfunding model to leverage revenue from energy efficiency to put solar on nonprofit buildings.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments|
|Case Study||Leveraging Funding Sources to Bring Solar to Low-Income Households in Minnesota||This case study provides an overview of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance’s work under the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership to provide weatherization, solar thermal and solar electric systems for low-income households.|
|Case Study||Bulk Purchasing Power for Cape Cod Communities||This case study provides an overview of Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative’s work under the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership to streamline procurement, coordinate installation and drive down costs of solar in the community.|
|Case Study||Shared Solar for the Community||This case study provides an overview of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative’s work under the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership to engage their community to bring a solar array to residents of multiple income levels.|
|Fact Sheet||Pricing Model of Interest for Utility-driven Community Solar Programs||This table provides a side-by-side comparison of community solar pricing strategies at seven utilities nationwide.||Policy Makers, Utilities|
|Guide||Community Shared Solar: Implementation Guidelines for Massachusetts Communities||This comprehensive guide is intended as a resource for project organizers seeking to implement community solar projects in their community. While designed for Massachusetts, the information may be valuable and applicable for other communities. The appendix contains helpful templates for contracts and other form documents for streamlined adaptation.||Policy Makers, Communities & Local Governments, End-Users|
|Website||Community Solar Hub||Developed in partnership with the U.S. DOE SunShot Initiative, this online resource provides various implementation tools, resources, software, and other services to help support and streamline community solar project development.||Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors|
|Website||Community Solar Value Project||This online resource library provides an extensive suite of resources developed by the Community Solar Value Project, including presentations and publications relating to ownership and financing models, solar+storage and demand response, and marketing, among other topics.||Policy Makers, Utilities|
|Report||Community Solar: Program Design Models (for utility-led solar)||This report provides an overview of community solar program design through 12 key decisions and discusses what options are most prevalent. Case studies of each model type are provided.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors|
|Report||Incorporating Demand Response into Community Solar Programs||One volume of the Community Solar Value Project (CSVP) High-Value Community Solar Program Design Guide, the primary objective of this report is to assist utility solar program managers in including appropriate demand response (DR) measures for co-marketing to enhance the value of distributed solar — and particularly of utility-driven community solar.||Utilities|
|Website||Local Government Community Solar Toolkit||This online toolkit and guide is designed to help local governments interested in community solar gardens. Specific to Minnesota’s Community Solar Gardens, elements of this toolkit may be helpful and applicable for other communities.||Communities & Local Governments|
|Report +Model||Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs||This report and accompanying model program rules are intended to assist
stakeholders in developing shared renewable energy programs by providing a consolidated overview and discussion of program design components and an adaptable template for policies and rulemaking purposes.
|Website||Re-Powering America’s Land||EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative encourages renewable energy development, including community solar, on certain contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites. This website provides useful resources for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments or anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.|
|Case Study||Solar Success for Nonprofit Utilities: Grand Valley Power’s Low-Income Community Solar Program||This case study spotlights the Grand Valley Rural Cooperative Community Solar project in Colorado completed in partnership with GRID Alternatives.||Policy Makers, Utilities|
|Guide||Texas Community Solar Guidelines for Cooperatives and Municipally Owned Utilities||This is a high level primer for how a Texas nonprofit utility can launch a community solar project. It provides a summary of community solar, its recent growth in Texas, technical resources to reference, and an overview of the major community solar decision points. This document is for Texas nonprofit utilities and was informed by Texas community solar project managers.||Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, Communities & Local Governments|
|Guide||Utility Community Solar Handbook||This handbook provides the utility’s perspective on utility managed community solar program development and describes the major design elements the utility needs to address during program development. It also provides suggestions for how to constructively engage with the utility and support program implementation.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors|
|Website||Community Solar Scenario Tool||This online tool allows users to see how various inputs, such as system size, location, and project costs, impact the economics of a project from both the customer and utility perspectives.||Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors|
This section features tools relevant to certain financial aspects of community solar, including resources pertaining to low-income community solar financing. Future resources will feature case studies of successful financing models and additional guidance documents for project investors.
Community Solar Project Ownership & Financing Structures
This Community Solar Value Project working paper aims to help utilities understand their choices for structuring and financing community solar programs. The options vary based on the structure of utility (investor-owned, municipal utility, or co-op), state policies, and the upcoming changes to the federal solar tax incentives.
|Website||Federal Resources for Community Solar||A DOE curated resource list of federal programs and incentives applicable to community solar development.|
|Website||Low-Income Solar Policy Guide, Financing Tools||This online resource library provides examples of different models and financing mechanisms to help expand solar access to LMI customers.|
|Memo||Private Letter Ruling on the Eligibility of an Individual Panel Owner in an Offsite, Net-Metered Community-Shared Solar Project to Claim the Section 25D Tax Credit||A private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determining that an owner of PV panels in an offsite community shared solar garden is eligible for the residential tax credit.|
|Memo||Stoel Rives Memorandum to NREL RE: Securities Law Issues Relating to Community Solar Projects||A legal memo issued to NREL discussing the federal securities legal issues surrounding community solar development.||Policy Makers, Utilities, Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors|
This section includes resources to aid in effective outreach and education of programs, including tools that provide insights into consumer preferences and explore best practices for consumer protections. It includes resources to support general community outreach and education related to community solar, as well as more project-specific marketing resources.
|Guide||Apartment and Condominium Toolkits for Multi-family Solar (Virtual Net Metering Tariff in California)||Virtual net metering is a tariff that provides solar access to tenants and multi-tenant property owners throughout California. This Virtual Net Metering Toolkit provides guidance for apartment owners/operators on how to efficiently and effectively navigate the process of going solar for multi-family dwellings.||End-Users|
|Website||Community Solar Garden Financial Decision-Making Tool||This free online calculator and information guide helps potential subscribers of Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden’s program better understand the financial impact of participation.||Communities & Local Governments, End-Users|
|Guide||Consumer Protection Trio||IREC’s consumer protection Trio includes the Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights, the Be Solar Smart Consumer Checklist, and a resources list. Each one spotlights safeguards and pointers for buyers, government agencies, the industry, retailers and others in the market. Though specific to rooftop solar, many of the resources are applicable to community solar.||End-Users|
|Guide||Guide to Land Leases||A guide for landowners to help them understand the opportunities and implications for leasing their land for solar development.||Renewable Energy Industry & Project Investors, End-Users|
|Website||Key Considerations in Choosing a Community-Owned Solar Garden||This provides an overview of issues for consumers to consider when evaluating community solar options.||End-Users|