What is Community Shared Solar?
Community Shared solar, or community solar, is a way to get your electricity from a clean renewable resource (the sun!) even if your roof is shaded or old, or if you rent your home or apartment. Community shared solar is also good for businesses who want to do the right thing and be green by getting their electricity from a clean source. Consumers can buy or rent shares in community shared solar projects. Projects can be ground or roof-mounted.
Community Shared Solar provides those that cannot install solar panels on their roofs the opportunity to reap the benefits of renewable energy.
Three Community Shared Solar Ownership Models:
Special Purpose Entity (SPE): Residents in a community join together and start a business venture in order to create a community shared solar project
Nonprofit: A charitable nonprofit organization creates a community shared solar project on behalf of businesses and residents
Utility-Sponsored or Owned by a Corporation: A utility owns or operates a community shared solar program that residents can participate in at their own will.
View and print MCAN's 2 page handout on community shared solar here
Want to Start a Project in Your Town? We recommend you pull together a group of like-minded folks in your town, people who care about where their energy comes from and are willing to help shepherd the projects through the process. It can be especially helpful to have a champion within your town government as a part of your team!
- Identify a local solar company as a project partner. This company will partner with you to ultimately install the project and sell it to the other participants.
- Investigate potential sites to construct the project and work with your local solar provider to understand the costs associated with a particular site.
- Formalize the list of other participants. It is recommended that a member managed limited liability corporation (LLC) be set up.
- Finalize the community members
- Sign up with the installer
- Have your local solar company permit and construct the project
- Enjoy the many benefits of community shared solar.
Recently, MCAN held a round table on community shared solar at All Saints Parish Church in Brookline MA
- Emma Kraus from MA Department of Energy Resources (see her presentation here)
- Ani Krishnan from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (see his presentation here)
- Dave Beavers from the Cadmus Legal Group (see his presentation here)
- Isaac Baker from Coop Power (see his presentation here)
Chapter Success Story: Lexington
Lexington is making huge strides towards community shared solar. The town currently has solar panels on the roofs of their schools and municipal buildings which provide 1.1 MW of clean energy. Recently the town was approved to build a 2.1 MW project on top of an old landfill. Lexington's next steps of receiving permits for approvals and construction could take another year. Upon completion of the landfill project, combined with the solar on schools and municipalities, Lexington will receive 45% of the town's municipal electricity from renewable energy.
Success Story: The Harvard Solar Garden
The Harvard Solar Gardens were developed in two phases. The first phase, Harvard Solar Garden 1, broke ground early in the spring of 2014 and the second phase started construction later that year once it was fully subscribed.
When Harvard Solar Garden 1 came online in June of 2014, it was the first member-owned community shared solar installation in Massachusetts, developed with support from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Department of Energy Resources, Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Jen Benson, and a handful of tremendously committed residents, including Dylan, as well as hundreds of local supporters. Today, the Harvard Solar Gardens are owned by around 100 members and have a total capacity of 524kW. Members include businesses, renters, and many homeowners with shady roofs. Thanks to virtual net metering, HSG members receive a share of the net metering credits generated by the solar panels on their National Grid electricity bill every month.
More information and the story of one family's decision to be involved with the Harvard Solar Garden can be found here
Many chapters are working on putting community shared solar to work in their towns - contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if your town is one!