Community Solar Brings Renewable Energy ‘To The Masses’

Solar panels aren’t just for Arizonans living in sprawling ranch houses anymore.

Homeowners who lack adequate roof space or who enjoy the shade of big trees — even condo owners and renters such as Joe and Vanessa Goldberg of notoriously rainy Seattle — are now teaming up with their neighbors to buy electricity from shared solar power projects.

“Because we rent, we don’t really have the option of putting solar on our house,” said environmentally conscious Joe, 35, who once made a local move using only bike trailers.

Like a growing number of Americans, the Goldbergs decided to invest in a community solar project. Solar-paneled picnic shelters in their neighborhood’s Jefferson Park feed the local electricity grid. The couple purchased two of the solar units, and now receive credits on their electric bills for their portion of the solar power produced.

Much like a P-patch provides plots for people lacking their own planting space, emerging community gardens “open up solar’s benefits to the masses,” said Kate Laursen, a spokeswoman for SunShare, a community solar developer with gardens in Colorado and Minnesota.

Overall, she noted, more than three-quarters of households in the U.S. are unable to install a rooftop solar system on their own home. But for residents in at least 24 states, according to a June report published by market analysis and advisory firm GTM Research, community solar gardens are emerging as an option. In fact, power generated by community solar in the U.S. is predicted to more than double between 2015 and 2016, as more states, utilities and companies get on board. (New rules promoting community solar, for example, are expected to be finalized soon in Maryland.)

Momentum may have been further catalyzed earlier this month in Paris, where 195 nations agreed to a global accord to phase —> Read More