Neighborhood photo voltaic’s star is on the rise

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This text was tailored from Power Weekly, a free publication concerning the clear vitality transition.

In the previous few months, I’ve seen a flurry of headlines portray a rosy view for the way forward for neighborhood photo voltaic. Contemplate: 

In 2019, I wrote about neighborhood photo voltaic and the hodgepodge of laws serving to or hindering its unfold. Loads has occurred within the final three years. So what’s new with neighborhood photo voltaic, and the way can firms use it to satisfy their clear vitality targets? 

What’s neighborhood photo voltaic?

Broadly talking, neighborhood photo voltaic refers to an array the place a number of shoppers profit from a single system. 

I confess, I’ve a delicate spot for neighborhood photo voltaic. One thing warms my small-town coronary heart to consider a neighborhood collectively proudly owning a useful resource, constructing resilience and independence collectively. It’s a mannequin that is sensible to me, particularly because the unpredictable ramps up with the onset of local weather chaos. 

I additionally love that it makes clear vitality extra accessible to extra teams of individuals. 

It permits folks and firms to faucet into the advantages of native photo voltaic — akin to cheaper vitality and elevated vitality resilience — when rooftop photo voltaic isn’t an choice, which is the case for three-quarters of People. Neighborhood photo voltaic’s subscription mannequin means folks don’t have to decide to long-term contracts, which can appear daunting.

That is particularly thrilling as a software to create a pathway for low-income communities to faucet into the advantages of photo voltaic, akin to decrease vitality payments and elevated resilience. Organizations akin to Washington, D.C.-based Groundswell use neighborhood photo voltaic to interact communities which were largely excluded from local weather tech improvements. The nonprofit experiences it’s collectively saving low-income households $1.85 million yearly on vitality — all with the facility of the solar.

As a result of the neighborhood photo voltaic arrays are linked to the grid, they may also be sited and deployed in places advantageous for rising resilience. When paired with vitality storage, it may also be a useful resource to maintain energy flowing within the case of disruptions from, say, excessive climate. 

Company procurements and neighborhood photo voltaic 

As a result of neighborhood photo voltaic arrays are typically smaller than company procurements, they have an inclination to get much less consideration in clear vitality roundups, such because the GreenBiz deal tracker

However what they lack in measurement might be made up for with different advantages. The construction of neighborhood photo voltaic initiatives may help attain different holistic concerns in a company clear vitality procurement technique. It may be used to convey clear vitality to extra communities, construct native resilience or assist company companions with land entry a brand new income stream. 

Company leaders locally photo voltaic house embody: 

  • Walmart: Final 12 months, the retail big introduced it could be the anchor tenant to assist 129 megawatts of neighborhood photo voltaic initiatives with Nexamp, which it calls the most important deal of its variety. In 2019, the corporate labored to vary laws in Georgia to increase the utmost size of renewable vitality contracts for rural utilities, opening the door to extra neighborhood photo voltaic contracts. It is also an avid subscriber to present neighborhood photo voltaic initiatives, together with one in New York and 36 in Minnesota.
  • Natural Valley: The dairy cooperative fashioned two modern neighborhood photo voltaic offers (in 2019 and 2017), connecting farmers with municipal utility districts, different company consumers and the town of Madison, Wisconsin. 
  • Starbucks: The espresso big turned to neighborhood photo voltaic as a part of its broader holistic procurement technique in 2020, investing in 23 initiatives in New York state to produce photo voltaic to its shops and the neighborhood.
  • Microsoft, LinkedIn, Corning, Akamai and VMware, which launched a neighborhood photo voltaic program with Frequent Power to convey clear vitality to their workers. 

Different firms have turned to neighborhood photo voltaic initiatives as subscribers, reflecting how the construction has opened the door to smaller firms and firms earlier of their decarbonization journey: 

  • T-Cellular just lately introduced it should develop 17 MW throughout three neighborhood photo voltaic initiatives in New York. 
  • ECOS, the sustainable cleansing product model, final 12 months signed onto a neighborhood photo voltaic settlement to energy one hundred pc of its operations.
  • Tops Pleasant Markets, a grocery store chain based mostly in New York, disclosed a deal in 2021 to energy 75 shops with neighborhood photo voltaic plus storage.
  • Hormel, proprietor of Skippy and Applegate, subscribed to a neighborhood photo voltaic undertaking in 2019. 

What’s subsequent for neighborhood photo voltaic?

Whereas neighborhood photo voltaic is gaining in recognition, it is usually beholden to native laws and utility interconnections. Immediately there’s a hodgepodge of insurance policies throughout the nation, with 20 states embracing insurance policies that allow neighborhood photo voltaic initiatives. 

Neighborhood photo voltaic advocates, together with the CCSA, are lobbying for federal laws to assist spur the market ahead. The group issued seven coverage suggestions, akin to establishing tax incentives and streamlining interconnection processes by built-in grid planning. 

Others are pushing for state legal guidelines to higher assist neighborhood photo voltaic. A current opinion piece in Utility Dive makes a powerful case that the California Public Utility Fee ought to incorporate neighborhood photo voltaic provisions in its web metering insurance policies to higher serve Black households. 

Within the meantime, firms are seemingly the forces that may proceed to seek out new monetary constructions that may hold spreading neighborhood photo voltaic to extra folks. As these change into extra established, and as extra communities expertise the impacts of local weather chaos and disruption, neighborhood photo voltaic prevalence is certain to rise. 

[Interested in learning more about energy marketplace news, trends & analysis? Subscribe to our free Energy Weekly newsletter.]

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