A 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that only 22 to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system after adjusting for structural, shading, or ownership issues. As a result, it has been broadly recognized that the on-site solar market comprises only one part of the total market for solar energy.
The “Community Solar” concept has generated significant interest recently, regionally and nationally. Despite the
promise that Community Solar holds, navigating the maze of financial incentives, legal structures, and technical decisions make developing such a project a complicated process. Experience across the country has shown that there is no ideal Community Solar business model. Solar incentives vary from state to state and from utility to utility, as do solar resources and electricity prices.
The Department of Energy has funded Community Solar initiatives in many states from New York to Oregon to develop and implement models that engage diverse communities and create accessible pathways to clean energy ownership. The MRES Community Solar Program will be the first broad-scale effort in the Metro Area to establish a model that works in our unique financial, regulatory, and social context.
The MRES Community Solar Background Study will do an in-depth survey of past efforts of other solar advocates in hopes to establish a path forward in Minnesota.
Goals and Objectives of the Community Solar Background Study:
1. Goal: Gain a firm understanding of which existing models have potential in Minnesota
2. Goal: In collaboration with a team of local experts and community stakeholders, develop a context-specific framework for developing an initiative in Minnesota, taking into consideration actionability, economic benefit to the community, accessibility to the broadest definition of community, and environmental benefits.
3. Goal: Lay the foundation for a future program and pilot projects through engagement with a broad group of stakeholders.
See the Public Presentation Video of our Study findings here:
There has been a lot of work done across the United States to make solar more accessible to everyone. Here is are a few resources on the major topics we are exploring as part of this grant.
CEF is an energy efficiency cooperative based in the South Minneapolis community with a focus on the four Phillips Neighborhoods, Central, Powderhorn, and Corcoran. They also organize Grow Solar, a solar bulk-purchase program.
This guidebook describes key elements of the Solarize campaigns in Portland, and offers several program refinements from projects beyond Portland. The guidebook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers to replicate the success of Solarize Portland.
A Solar Garden is a community shared solar array with grid-connected subscribers. Homes and businesses, even if shaded by trees, receive a bill credit as if the panels were on their own roof using “virtual net metering”. This model was enabled by Colorado state legislation.
the CROWDFUND Act which has just been passed in Senate makes raising capital much easier for small businesses. The Act will allow companies to raise up to $1,000,000 annually through crowdfunding on ‘registered Internet web sites’. This means that US based start-ups will be able to issue shares in the business in exchange for equity. Companies with just 500 investors, currently have to make information about their funds public. The threshold will be increased to 2,000 investors when the Act is passed. This model holds significant potential for allowing multiple shareholders to more easily own a renewable energy project and benefit from the production.
Solar Mosaic, a solar crowd-funding startup out of California, is already laying the groundwork to be a platform offering solar shares on projects across the country.The message on their dorment website currently reads: “On April 24th we filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and several states to offer Solar Power Notes to the public, with proceeds going to fund solar power projects. While we work with regulatory authorities on the details of our offering we are very limited in what we can say about the offering.”