A total of 50 residents and businesses in Rutland, Vt., bought into a new, 150 kilowatt, community solar garden developed by NRG Residential Solar Solutions for Green Mountain Power, the local utility. The project is among early examples of community solar gardens, which are popping up in more states across the U.S. It’s also one of the first examples of allowing the community solar garden owners the ability to buy into the garden at no up-front cost.
Under the agreements signed with customers of Green Mountain Power, they bought into the Rutland array at no up front cost and receive a credit on their electric bills for the amount of electricity their portions of the garden produce. Much like buying shares in a community garden that allow the share owner to receive produce from the garden without having to do all the gardening themselves.
In the past however, most community solar garden “owners”—consumers can essentially purchase 1 or more solar panels of a solar garden—had to pay a certain amount up-front for the modules. While still less expensive than putting solar on a home it still carried an up-front cost. Newer arrangements like this one could make it easier for people and businesses to go solar even if it’s not on their roof or property.
“Rutland is very proud of this array and what it means for the city and its residents,” said Mayor Chris Louras, a customer of the community solar project. “Whether a person owns their own home, rents their residence, lives in a shady area or cannot afford the upfront capital cost of their own solar array, through this project, they can have solar power and with it, the knowledge that they are helping the environment as they save on their electric bill.”
“This project and the innovation it represents is helping make Rutland the solar capital of New England,” said GMP President and CEO Mary Powell. “We anticipate working together on additional projects in Vermont to further develop solar as a meaningful part of our energy future.”
“With the partnership of Green Mountain Power and the strong support of the leadership and residents of Rutland, NRG has been able to build a truly revolutionary solar program to help meet the electrical needs of the city,” said Denise Wilson, NRG executive vice president, New Businesses. “This community solar project makes solar a possibility for all Rutland customers.”
The Rutland project is not the first community solar garden in the U.S. Clean Energy Collective, built the El Jebel, Col., community solar garden in 2010, which it says is the first one in the U.S. It also built the first community solar garden in Vermont, the 144 kilowatt Putney Array, but investments in its solar gardens in Vermont start at $813.
Looking forward community solar gardens are likely to become more popular options in those states that allow them. They offer people whose homes’ rooftops don’t get good sunlight, renters and businesses the chance to go solar. They are also often a lower-cost alternative to going solar.Tweet