Getting solar into more people’s lives is easier in more developed areas and places where utilities are public but in more rural areas or places where utilities are co-operatives it hasn’t been as easy. In many states the solar requirements for co-ops are much different than for public utilities. Hence the co-ops and their partners launched solar Cooperative Community Projects (sCOOP) last year and it's already made significant accomplishments in many states.
“Over the past year we’ve seen a significant amount of interest in solar on the part of electric cooperatives,” The National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) CEO Sheldon Petersen said. “The collaborative efforts behind the sCOOP program have enabled those co-ops interested in solar to pursue projects in a more cost-effective way.”
One of the reasons the co-ops are regulated differently is because they’re incorporated as non-profits and can’t raise funds on the public market, nor can they access some of the solar incentives offered to for-profit companies. To make it easier for CoOps CFC, Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange (Federated) and the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO) launched the program a year ago.
“NRCO was founded on the concept of aggregating demand for renewable energy across cooperative members and sharing the costs of developing, owning and contracting for projects,” NRCO CEO Amadou Fall said. “The sCOOP program brings that philosophy to a local level on behalf of participating co-ops.”
The sCOOP program allows them access to the incentives and eases access to financing for projects. As such it allows electric cooperatives to offer local solar electric projects to their customer members through voluntary participation. Since launching more than 20 co-ops have completed or are developing projects. These projects are underway in a number of states including California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
The first such project was completed by the Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids, Minn., in December of 2013. A total of 15 more projects will have come online by the end of 2014 and the rest will come online in 2015, according to CFC.
One area sCOOP hasn’t particularly helped in, however is getting solar on rooftops in co-op coverage areas.Tweet