In terms of complexity and affordability, the range of offsite renewable structures runs from Community Solar and Virtual Net Metering to Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). During a September 2016 presentation to the World Energy Engineering Congress in Washington, D.C., our own Rich Walsh spoke about the role these structures are playing in maximizing renewable energy adoption.
Rich, the WGL Energy Systems (WGL Energy) Program Lead for Clean Energy Solutions, believes “organizations of all shapes and sizes [can] benefit from solar power within their existing budget and purchasing parameters.” Because “not every company has the resources of Facebook, Google and Amazon to manage complex energy transactions,” small and mid-sized businesses can avail themselves of a solar energy solution that fits within their existing strategy, budget and procurement protocols – community solar.
As defined by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Community solar, also known as shared solar or solar gardens, is a solar energy deployment model that allows customers to buy or lease part of an offsite shared solar [photovoltaic] PV system.”1 By reducing up-front costs, community solar expands solar access to homes and organizations of all sizes who are seeking alternatives to conventional energy sources. In the residential market, this might include renters, those with shaded roofs and those with limited financial resources. As a point of reference, “a 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that only 22 to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system.”2
Small to mid-sized businesses, likewise, have similar reasons for developing or participating in a community solar project. These reasons can include facilities and infrastructure limitations (e.g., shaded rooftops, building lease terms, etc.), financial and tax considerations (e.g., up-front investment, available financing, etc.), the allocation of costs and benefits (e.g., electricity produced, RECs, revenue from electricity sales, tax benefits, and ownership of the project’s assets) and other legal and regulatory issues.
The benefits of participating in a community solar project can include:
• Electricity generated from the solar system
• Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)
• Federal tax credits and deductions
• State and utility rebates and incentives
• Accelerated depreciation (Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System, or MACRS)
• Enhanced personal or corporate reputation (solar is a form of renewable, or clean, energy)
For more on if community solar is right for your home or business, please contact your WGL Energy Business Development Manager or email Rich Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Community Solar. (2015, October 7): p. 1. Retrieved January 19, 2017, from http://www.nrel.gov/tech_deployment/state_local_governments/community-solar.html
2 Coughlin, Jason, et al, “A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-Profit Project Development,” U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, November 2010: p. 2. Retrieved from http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/49930.pdf