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Solar electricity array on the roof of the library of Eastern Mennonite University. (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

Solar electricity array on the roof of the library of Eastern Mennonite University. (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

Solar power is doing very well in the United States of America. Last year, the industry grew 21 percent, beating out both coal and wind installations for the second year in a row, and in January we learned that the renewable resource is now cheaper than the grid in 42 US cities. Now comes even more good news for residents who haven’t been able to afford solar installations: Small-scale and community solar projects are on the rise.

According to a recent article in the International Business Times, the number of shared solar arrays in the U.S. are increasing, providing an affordable energy alternative for lower-income residents and apartment dwellers.

“Community solar is one of the next largest growth market opportunities in the broader U.S. solar market,” Cory Honeyman, a senior analyst at GTM Research in Boston, told IBT. Sixty-six cumulative megawatts of community solar was installed last year. In 2015, GTM expects a nearly 75 percent increase in installations of shared solar projects (totaling 115 megawatts in capacity).

A mobile solar powered generator, built in Wilmington, North Carolina by Coyle Industries.co. (Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

A mobile solar powered generator, built in Wilmington, North Carolina by Coyle Industries.co. (Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

According to IBT, SolarCity Corp. and SunEdison Inc., two high-profile solar companies, are extending their third-party financing programs to community projects. Helping the process along is the recently-announced White House program to install 300 megawatts of renewable energy in federally-subsidized housing by 2020.

Currently, there are 24 states with at least one community solar project, and 20 states in the process of enacting community solar legislation.

“Looking ahead to 2020,” Honeyman told Green Tech Media, “the community solar opportunity is poised to become more geographically diversified, as developers ramp up service offerings to utilities in states without community solar legislation in place and as national rooftop solar companies enter the community solar scene.”

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has also proposed a Low Income Solar Act, which would use $200 million in Department of Energy loans and grants to offset the costs associated with installing solar panels on community facilities, public housing and family homes.

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