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Community Solar

March 1, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Tomy Granzier-Nakajima

Executive Summary 

Community solar refers to a shared renewable energy model where several subscribers purchase the electrical output of a large solar farm. In return, subscribers typically receive a credit on their electricity bill from their electric provider. Missouri SB 824 of the 2022 legislative session would establish a community solar pilot program. The bill would require retail electric providers to implement a community solar project that will run for three years until the total solar electricity demand from subscribers equals 2% of the electric provider’s electricity sales of the previous year. Missouri HB 1536 of the 2022 legislative session states that electric corporations that plan to acquire or construct a new supply-side resource such as a new power plant must provide a plan to purchase energy credits from one or more community solar projects as long as the energy does not exceed 20% of the corporation’s renewable energy portfolio requirements.  

Highlights 

  • Total community solar capacity in the U.S. has grown on average by about 121% every year from 2010–2020.
  • While legislation supporting community solar is not necessary to authorize deployment, 22 states plus Washington, D.C. have legislation that enables or requires community solar.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that 49% of residential households cannot install rooftop solar panels due to shading, roof suitability, size, or house ownership. 
  • Community solar projects may expand solar availability to those without access, including low- to moderate- income households and minority communities. 
  • NREL has found that since 2016, community solar subscribers see a net positive economic benefit over the lifetime of their subscription.

Limitations 

  • Because of the recent expansion in the development of community solar projects, quantifiable research studies linking policy implementations to market outcomes are not yet available.
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