Community Solar Resources

Customers of Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s SolarShares program receive bill credits equivalent to the amount of energy they buy through virtual net metering, and the credits are equivalent in value to the bill credits received by a customer with a behind-the-meter photovoltaic system—full retail price per kilowatt-hour. Photo credit: Courtesy of SMUD 2015

Community solar, also known as shared solar, is an increasingly popular business model for deploying distributed solar technology. Shared solar projects allow customers that do not have sufficient solar resource, that rent or lease space, or that are otherwise unable or unwilling to install solar on their properties, to buy or lease a portion of a shared solar system. The participant’s share of the electricity generated is credited to their electricity bill as if the solar system were located on their property. The shared solar model expands the availability of distributed solar to a broader customer base, offers economies of scale to project developers, and may reduce the cost of incentive programs and address concerns of cross-subsidization across utility ratepayers. Here is a sampling of community solar resources, all of which are available for free.

A Guide to Community Shared Solar
This publication is a resource for anyone who wants to develop community shared solar projects, from community organizers or solar energy advocates to government officials or utility managers. By exploring the range of incentives and policies while providing examples of operational community shared solar projects, it helps communities plan and implement successful energy projects. In addition, by highlighting some policy best practices, it suggests changes in the regulatory landscape that could significantly boost community shared solar installations across the nation.

The Solarize Guidebook
This guidebook is a community guide to collective purchasing of residential photovoltaic (PV) systems. It serves as a roadmap for project planners and solar advocates who want to create their own successful Solarize campaigns by describing the key elements of the Solarize Portland (Oregon) campaigns and variations from projects across the country, along with lessons learned and planning templates.

Community Shared Solar: Policy and Regulatory Considerations
This paper explores the ways in which the shared
 solar business model interacts with existing policy and regulations, including net metering, tax credits, and securities regulation. It presents some of the barriers that shared solar projects may face, and provides options for creating a supportive policy environment.

Community Solar Scenario Tool
The Community Solar Scenario Tool (CSST) provides a “first cut” analysis of different community or shared solar program options. The tool has been created primarily with smaller municipal utilities, electric cooperatives, and state and local advocates in mind. This model allows users to see how various inputs, such as system size, location, and project costs, impact the economics of a project from both a potential customer’s perspective as well as the sponsoring utility’s. CSST is available as a downloadable Microsoft Excel file, which includes information pertaining to the various calculations and descriptions of the outputs ( For more complex financial modeling options, see the System Advisor Model (SAM).

Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation
This technical paper provides a high-level overview of the current U.S. shared solar landscape and the impact that a given shared solar program’s structure has on requiring federal securities oversight, as well as an estimate of market potential for U.S. shared solar deployment. If federal, state, and local policies can institute a supportive regulatory environment, shared solar presents an area of tremendous potential growth for solar PV, expanding the potential customer base to 100% of homes and businesses.

Community Shared Resources List
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) has assembled a list of community shared solar resources. Download the list here.

Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs
Revised in collaboration with The Vote Solar Initiative, the model rules were updated to assist stakeholders in developing shared renewables programs to broaden renewable energy access to more consumers. In addition, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council updated its guiding principles for shared renewable energy programs to illustrate these programs’ critical aspects.

Bridges to New Solar Business Models
This publication offers a broad look at possible solar business models, including community solar. Creating a sustainable long-term market for distributed solar photovoltaics (DPV) will require aligning the interests of utilities, solar companies, technology providers, and customers. Aligning those interests means enhancing
 legacy solar business models or building new ones by creating an expanded value pool that makes DPV affordable and accessible to far more customers, bridges beyond individual customer-centric DPV value to include value delivered to the grid and society, and allows the electricity grid’s many stakeholders to share in that value.

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