Community Solar is a collective or sharing model for going solar. In Community Solar, a group of participants put up the money to build a larger solar array and then share the benefits among themselves as well as with the place where the solar is sited.
In Washington State, there are two types of Community Solar that are allowed to collect incentives. The maximum incentive rate under the 2005 Incentive Legislation is $1.08/kwh for Made-in-WA systems.
The two models in Washington are:
- Utility Sponsored – Usually the utility determines the site of the installation and manages the program. Customers of that utility can buy a share for set price that is usually between $500 to $1500. These customers are then allowed to take the 30% federal tax credit on the price of their share. In addition, they receive on bill credits for their portion of the total solar energy produced by the system each billing cycle (virtual net metering) as well as an annual payment from the Washington State Production Incentive. The solar system reamins an asset of the utility.
- LLC Sponsored (For-profit or Non-profit Sponsored) – In this model, the location for the solar system must be a public entity (public school, fire station, library, city hall). Either an LLC or a Nonprofit Entity sponsors the solar project and sells the share. They also collect the WA Production Incentive for the whole system. Participants buy a share and like above are able to take a 30% federal tax credit on the price of the share. They also earn a percentage of the WA Production Incentive equivalent to the percentage of the system that they own, but it is paid to the nonprofit or company, and then the nonprofit or company pays the investors. Different entities set things up differently, but the intent is that, at the end, the customer earns back all their upfront cost AND the public entity gets the benefit of the solar power to reduce their electric bill in the years beyond the end of the incentive period.
Community Solar makes solar accessible to are people who don’t own their own home, don’t have a sunny location, cannot afford the upfront cost of solar or simply want solar at a lower entry price.
Examples of Community Solar Projects
Clark County PUD
Customers had the option to purchase one unit at a price of $100. All projects offered sold out in less than one month.
The electric utility in Spokane, is currently accepting participants into its 423 KW Community Solar Project.
Anacortes Public Library
This community solar system was funded by Skagit Community Solar Projects using the LLC model.
Wood Stone Community Solar Project, Bellingham, WA
This anufacturing company of stone hearth and specialty commercial cooking equipment now has solar on its manufacturing facility roof thanks to the vision and commitment of its employees. Read the full project profile >
Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Project, Seattle
Seattle City Light has teamed up with affordable housing provider Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), for its fourth Community Solar project. Capitol Hill Housing helps people of limited means to have a home by providing secure, affordable apartments to more than 1,700 of our neighbors across the city.
A different model for taking collective action is called Solarize (a program of Spark Northwest). In this model, a group of home-owners each buy their own solar systems but they come together to go solar as a neighborhood and get a group-buy discount. Together they select one installer and set the time schedule. Learn about the current Solarize Campaigns.