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.
The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household by 2025. This partnership will develop multi-stakeholder teams to convene around specific goals, provide technical assistance for unique local challenges, and develop an online community platform to support information exchange. The program was announced on Wednesday, September 25, 2019. Click for more information.
In Washington State, 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.
Under Washington’s solar incentive program enacted in July 2017, a Community Solar program participants may receive incentive payments via an Administrator under a program governed by RCW 82.16.165. RCW 82.16.170 defines Community Solar program types and outlines the responsibilities of the Community Solar Project Administrator. However, it is important to note that Community Solar Projects may be structured completely differently outside of the State RESIP Program.
- Program must be pre-certified by WSU extension energy program.
- Maximum payment per participant is $5000 year.
- Program parameters are described in the chart below and in RCW 82.16.165.
- System size must be under 1000 KW.
- Project must have at least 10 participants or one participant for every 10 KW of capacity, whichever is greater.
- A Community Solar Project may be organized by a Washington electric utility or by a private entity.
Read WSU's latest Legislative Report from October 2019 showing updated information concerning Community Solar projects in Washington. Click for details.
|Fiscal Year Ends||Base Rate: Residential or Community Solar (per KWH)||Base Rate: Commercial or Shared Commercial Solar (per KWH)||Bonus for Modules (solar panels) Made in WA|
Update January 2020
During the 2020 Washington State Legislative session, HB 2248 was introduced to expand equitable access to the benefits of renewable energy through community solar projects. Link to bill. In December 2019 Solar Washington held a forum on community solar which included a presentation from Olympia Community Solar, among others. Click to view a recap of the meeting.
Visit the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission's website for more information on Community Solar. Click for details.
In early 2019, Spark Northwest released a report entitled Community Solar in Washington State History and Path Forward that explains and analyzes past Community Solar state policies, including a focus on inequity, and makes suggestions for the future policies. The report describes models that have worked well in other states.
Examples of Community Solar Projects
All of these projects are now complete. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a sampling of Community Solar projects in Washington.
Spokane-based utility Avista, serving Washington, Idaho and Oregon customers, has a community solar array, with 650+ Washington electric customers as subscribers. Located in Spokane Valley the array has 54 Solectria Inverters and 1,512, 280-watt polycrystalline silica photovoltaic solar panels from Itek Energy. Link to project details.
|The Anacortes Public Library community solar system was funded by Skagit Community Solar Projects using an LLC model under the legacy incentive program. Link to project details.|
|Benton PUD has two Community Solar Projects: The Ely Community Solar Project in Kennewick and the Old Inland Empire Community Solar Project in Prosser. Link to project details.|
|Clark Public Utilities has five Community Solar projects adjacent to one another on-site at the utility Operations Center in Orchards. The location was chosen for its prime solar exposure, visibility and cost-effective proximity to existing electrical infrastructure. The arrays began generating electricity to the Clark Public Utilities electric grid in June 2015. Link to project details.|
|Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market installed a community owned solar system atop the Olympia Farmer’s Market building in 2011. Link to project details.|
|The Decatur Island Community Solar project from Orcas Power & Light Co-Op is on 3.6 acres at the Decatur substation. It began harvesting energy in July of 2018. It is expected to produce around 570,000 kwH annually. Approximately 270 OPALCO members own shares in this project. Link to project details.|
|Puget Sound Energy's Solar Choice program offers customers the option of benefitting from solar energy generated at different locations within its service territory. Examples include Greenbank Farm Community Solar on Whidbey Island and the Kingston Community Solar project. Link to project details.|
|Seattle City Light has four community solar projects with 1300 participants and generating 190,000 kilowatt hours of solar power annually including the Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), for its fourth Community Solar project (pictured left). Link to project details.|
|This community solar array pictured left is located in Arlington, WA as part of the Arlington Microgrid Project by Snohomish County Public Utility District #1. The Arlington Microgrid and Clean Energy Technology Center project represents a new technology and approach that offers grid resiliency and renewable energy integration. Link to project details.|
|Spokane Valley-based Vera Water & Power first Community Solar project was installed back in 2016. Link to project details.|
The Wood Stone Community Solar Project out of Bellingham is a manufacturing company of stone hearth and specialty commercial cooking equipment and now has solar on its manufacturing facility roof thanks to the vision and commitment of its employees. Link to project details.
Another 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.