Community Solar Power is Growing

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Shading, a good angle, available space and many other factors play an important part in determining the feasibility of a solar installation. In fact, most households are not suitable for a solar panel installation. Is the bigger part of the population therefore not able to generate their own electricity with solar power?

Just in the last few years, new business models, which moves the solar panels from the rooftops of each individual home and into “community solar gardens”, has started appearing all over the country. These systems have many significant advantages over conventional solar setups; most important is the idea that everyone can participate, which undoubtedly will expand the solar market and spur new growth.

Net metering, or feed-in tariffs (used in some parts of the world), enables homes with solar panels to make use of their excess electricity production. When production exceeds consumption, homeowners can sell excess electricity back to the utility grid and receive bill credits (net metering) or direct payments (feed-in tariff schemes) – electricity that otherwise would require an inferior and expensive battery storage system, or even worse, be wasted.

Virtual net metering has been established in several states around the country, and is in the planning stages in many others. With a virtual net metering program, households can share their net metering “tab”, and each one of them can get credited on their energy costs according to how much they chipped in. This is the basic gist of how one community solar model could work, but as a matter of fact, virtual net metering is not necessarily required for a fully functioning solar garden.

The electrical utility or individual companies could operate the solar gardens, be in charge of installation, maintenance and manage subscribers.

Head over to The Solar Gardens Institute for a map over current established community solar gardens, and for more information on the topic.

  • Mathias Aarre Mæhlum

    Mathias is currently doing a masters in energy and environmental engineering at NTNU in Norway. In his spare time he runs, a site that focuses on informing and promoting the use of clean, renewable energy technologies and increased energy efficiency. Connect with Mathias on Google+ or send him an email.

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