Community Solar Opportunities

Community Solar Programs Expand

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted February 6, 2013

Community solar is capturing attention across the US as a way to get clean energy to everyone, including people who rent and whose roofs are too shaded for solar. 

A paper, "Community Shared Solar: Diverse Approaches for a Common Goal," illustrates how three utilities are giving customers access to community solar in Florida, Colorado Springs and Tucson.  

Most community solar installations are run by utilities - about half are electric coops and the rest are split between investor-owned and municipal utilities.

The largest community solar garden in the US is in southwestern Colorado, where people can simply buy or lease as many solar panels as they want.

Tucson Electric Power: Bright Tucson Community Solar

Investor-owned Tucson Electric Power's solar garden allows customers to buy the electricity generated by solar panels in 150-kWh blocks. The rate is set at just $3 a month for each block and locked in for 20 years. 

Originally planned for 1.6 MW, the program has been so successful that it's grown to 4.13 MW and 777 subscribers.

Colorado Springs Utilities: Community Solar Gardens

During the pilot phase of this municipal-run program, 2 megawatts (MW) of solar are available for lease or purchase in exchange for a fixed credit of $0.09 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) over 20 years.

As of October, close to 300 residential customers had purchased over 500 panels.

Florida Keys Electric Coop: Simple Solar Program

Since 2008, members have been able to lease solar panels from a solar garden in the Keys. They get a credit on their utility bill for the power the panels generate over 25 years.

Because of the project, the coop got a $43,000 rebate from the state, which it's using to fund rebates for members' home energy efficiency upgrades. 

Read the three case studies: