The Department of Energy launched its Solar Market Pathways effort to support community solar projects earlier this year, but today (April 17) the department is offering $15 million to support community solar projects across the U.S. Such projects allow those who can’t put solar on their homes or businesses an opportunity to still reap the benefits of harvesting the sun.
Community Solar projects are still relatively new in the U.S. and are often called solar gardens. People in the community can purchase a portion of the solar garden, usually one or more panels of an array and then use the solar power produced by their portion of the array to offset their electric costs. Sometimes this can result in direct payments and in other cases is applied directly to their electric bill dependent on their state and local regulations.
The $15 million being offered through Solar Market Pathways is intended to help communities develop solar deployment plans that focus on cutting red tape, building strong public-private partnerships to deploy commercial-scale solar, according to the department. DOE intends the funds to help establish financing mechanisms and community-based initiatives like shared solar programs.
“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs—creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”
There are a growing number of companies like Clean Energy Collective that are servicing the growing market and some of the first U.S. community solar gardens were built in Colorado. In such places, which now include Massachusetts, Minnesota and other states, demand for such projects is high. For instance when Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, introduced its solar garden incentives and allowed installers to submit applications, the pipeline was fulfilled within 24 hours of the initial offering. Similarly community solar projects have sold out prior to completion in a number of states.Tweet