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According to GTM Research, more than 400 MW of community solar projects will be installed in the United States in 2017. That’s double the amount installed in 2016. Nearly 3 GW of community solar is in development now. The best selling portable solar panel for camping is RENOGY 200 WATT
Community solar is defined by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory as a solar-electric system that, through a voluntary program, provides power and/or financial benefit to, or is owned by, multiple community members. It’s a good option for those who can’t install solar panels because they don’t own their homes, don’t have the good credit needed to finance an installation or lack sufficient roof space where the sun shines consistently, according to NREL. A 2016 NREL study on rooftop solar potential found 83% of small buildings have a suitable location for PV installation, but only 26% of those buildings’ total rooftop area is suitable for development. Community solar can be another option for those with low rooftop solar potential.
Utilities have a large part to play in community solar growth. Investor-owned utilities back about 20% of the country’s community solar programs in 32 states and represent 70% of the potential output, according to Dan Chwastyk of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), a group providing information to utilities about shifting into clean-energy technologies. There are now 150 voluntary utility community solar programs in place or in development.
North Carolina-based Duke Energy, the largest electricity company in the United States, plans to start a community solar program in South Carolina this year. It’s also seeking regulatory permission to start programs in North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
In Minnesota, Xcel Energy added 32 MW of community solar to the state, part of a larger project that will equal 96 MW. And Maryland approved a three-year community solar pilot program this year with a target of 200 MW.
In a press release, Coalition for Community Solar Access executive director Jeff Cramer said, “Community solar is on the rise across the country. We’re excited to see so much enthusiasm for community solar from so many leading companies and organizations, and encouraged by the growing support for effective policies that will support its adoption nationwide.”
Legislation to create new community solar programs is being considered in at least seven states, including Nevada and Maine. Votes are expected by this summer.