There's even more room for community solar to grow, with needed policy improvements, developers say.
C.J. Colavito, vice president of engineering at Standard Solar, owner of 150 MW of installed community solar projects, said challenges in deploying community solar projects are centered around permitting, interconnection, subscribership, and credit.
During the Renewable Energy World +Series webcast "Community Solar Projects and Programs: Today and Tomorrow", Colavito noted that some projects take 18-24 months for permitting and approval. Interconnection of projects is long and complex, in its own right, and can sometimes take years to reach a resolution, Colavito said.
"Oftentimes, siting your system and getting interconnection can be the two most important items to get done before you even dive into the other challenges with community solar," Colavito said.
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Colavito consolidated billing and opt-out programs represent essential policies for the growth of community solar.
Consolidated billing presents one bill to the customer from both the community solar generator and the utility and lowers subscriber management costs. Opt-out programs, meanwhile, automatically enroll residents in community solar projects without any additional step.
Colavito said Standard Solar has previously had to cancel community solar projects in development because of poor subscribership rates, which would be aided by opt-out programs.
Community solar enabling legislation exists in 21 states and the District of Columbia, either through state-required programs or authorization of pilot programs, according to NREL.
Currently, 72% of cumulative community solar capacity is concentrated in just four states: Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.
Community solar projects allow residents without suitable rooftops for generation to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, improving access to renewable energy for low-income and disadvantaged communities. Community solar project subscribers often receive guaranteed cost savings on their energy bills, too.
The Biden administration believes reaching its community solar target could create $1 billion in energy savings.
John Engel is the Content Director for Renewable Energy World. For the past decade, John has worked as a journalist across various mediums -- print, digital, radio, and television -- covering sports, news, and politics. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife, Malia.
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