Community Solar Should Save Money, Not Just Trees

Date: 18 Nov 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

IN this environmentally conscious college town, thousands of bicyclists commute each day through a carefully cultivated urban forest whose canopy shields riders and their homes from the harsh sun of this state’s Central Valley.

The intensity of that sunshine also makes Davis an attractive place to generate clean green energy from rooftop solar panels. And therein lies a conundrum. Tapping the power of the sun can also mean cutting down some of those trees.

Enter community solar.  Individuals can invest in a nearby, common solar PV installation, saving kilowatt-hours and trees.

But the article provides some poor examples: the Sacremento Municipal Utility District’s Solar Shares and SunSmart in St. George, UT.  In the case of the former, participants pay extra for their solar power.  In the case of the latter, participants pay extra for solar and – worse – pay up front for 20 years of more expensive power. 

In our recent report – Community Solar Power: Obstacles and Opportunities – we provide a case study of nine operational community solar projects – five of them provide a payback on investment rather than asking a premium price for clean power.

Community solar can save trees, but it can also save participants money.   

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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.