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Community solar projects expanding across the country

Community solar
Posted at 12:44 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 11:40:50-05

More community solar projects are popping up across the country as Americans focus more attention on renewable energy.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), about 1,600 solar projects are taking place nationwide. Panels are being added everywhere, from public buildings to abandoned factory grounds.

There is a particular focus on making the community solar projects available to low to moderate-income households who are renting.

"We can see these customers saving money on their energy bill, which then provides more money for them to spend on other things, provides just another avenue for them to have access to solar, even though they can't put it on their roof," said Jenny Heeter, a senior energy analyst at NREL.

Currently, community solar can serve about 600,000 customers across the country. The Department of Energy aims to increase that to 5 million households by 2025.

Heeter says places like Minnesota are seeing the most success with community solar — places that one wouldn't typically think of as solar hotbeds.

"Some of our most successful state markets are those where there's an implementing policy in place, so the state has either said utilities are required to do community solar, or they have to offer the metering structure, so the private sector companies can do it themselves," she said.

The general way community solar works is that a customer pays for a month-to-month subscription and then gets credited for the solar produced on their utility bill.

Heeter says about 80% of subscribers save money.