What is Community Solar?
When we think of solar panels, we usually imagine them sitting on top of residential rooftops. However, this is not always the case. Community solar (also known as ‘community shared solar’) reimagines where and how solar panels operate by allowing for a larger variety of demographics to support and benefit from solar energy. Community solar works by generating electricity at an offsite solar ‘farm’ or installation, and then allowing people to get credit on their energy bills for the portion of their power produced by the solar plant. The person participating in community solar does not receive the solar energy directly in their home but rather helps a solar producer put renewable energy into the grid. Essentially, it allows for people to benefit from clean solar energy without having to install solar panels on rooftops themselves.
Image credit: Solar Reviews
What are the benefits of Community Solar?
When thinking about issues of equity and expanding access to renewable energy, community solar is a great solution. First, renters are able to participate in community solar without owning a rooftop. This also includes businesses that are renting out spaces. Since individuals of lower economic status are more commonly renters, this allows for greater diversity to participate in the growing renewable energy market. Second, participating in a community solar program is typically cheaper than paying a regular (non solar) electricity bill. Those facing energy burdens are able to save much needed money.
What is an example of a community solar project?
Boston’s SHINE (Solar Helping Ignite Neighborhood Economies) is an initiative supported by the Department of Energy and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). This program aims to provide community solar to disadvantaged communities in the Boston area that face an undue energy burden. Additionally, SHINE offers a solar training program for underserved communities to benefit from workforce development opportunities, increases solar generation capacity, and uses solar to charge electrified transportation.
How is MassEnergize supporting community solar energy?
MassEnergize is finding ways to widen access to community solar. A proposed project, “Solar Para Todos”(Solar for All), will focus on Portuguese and Spanish speaking communities in Framingham. These residents, many of them renters, will receive up to 25% savings on future electric bills. This project will involve Framingham youth through the Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State University in encouraging their community to sign up for community solar. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting proposed project!