MaineBiz Features Growth of Community Solar Farms
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ReVision Energy has seen huge growth of community solar farms – projects where individual members get together to build a large solar project somewhere that is not their residence, and benefit from a % of the system’s production.
Though restricted in Maine due to policy (only 9 members can be part of an installation) the idea of solar being available to all of the people who want solar but do not own their building, or have an ideal roof, is tremendously popular.
ReVision Energy is not able to offer solar farms in New Hampshire just yet, but wheels are in motion and we hope to be able to offer them in 2016.
Seasoned MaineBiz writer James McCarthy interviewed ReVision’s Fortunat Mueller (co-founder) and Sue Jones (strategy and business development for solar farms). Check out the article: http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20150921/CURRENTEDITION/309169989/1088
MB: What’s driving the interest in ‘community solar’ projects here in Maine?
FM: Community solar farms are a natural outgrowth of the individual and commercial markets. When individuals and businesses have the motivation to do solar, but they don’t have a good physical location for it at their site, historically there has been no good alternative for them. Community solar farms allow them to retain the benefit of owning a solar project, even if its location is remote from their physical site. It’s something that’s been growing in popularity in the country over the last several years, with a handful of states really leading the way.
MB: If you have nine to 10 investors signing onto a community solar farm project, is the goal to install enough panels so that each investor’s yearly electricity needs are fully met?
FM: Yes. But I should clarify: They are not so much ‘investors’ as they are ‘owners.’ That’s an important distinction, because in a lot of other states the ‘community solar farm’ model is more like an investment transaction. But in our projects, you’re actually an owner of your fraction of the total project. You are a co-owner, so it’s a true community ownership of the solar farm.
Most of the members are sizing their shares to meet the majority or all of their electricity needs. But they don’t have to: Just like if you put a solar system on your roof, you could choose to put one that does 26% of your load, or 90% of your load.
BM: How does the power generated by the community solar farm get into the homes?
FM: The solar farm is connected to the grid and obviously all the homes are connected to the grid. So, in a sense, the solar power is going into one end of the pipe and the individuals are getting their electricity out of the other end of the pipe. In practice, that’s not all that different from a rooftop system, because residential rooftop systems are generating most of their power when people are not home using power any way: Most of it goes out to the grid and serves other loads, and you get your solar credit in the form of a net metering credit. It works exactly the same way on a community solar farm.
MB: Sue, what’s involved in getting a community solar farm project up and running?
Sue Jones: After a site has been identified and a host is onboard, we market that site to potential members or owners of the array that will eventually be put on that property. We have a number of folks in our database who have expressed interest in solar but, for whatever reason, they can’t install it on their own property. It may be they have too much shade, or they don’t have a strong enough roof, or don’t want the panels on their roof because they’re in a historic preservation district. There are many reasons why people don’t want to, or can’t, put solar on their own property.
In those particular cases, a community solar farm is their next best option, because it allows them to own their power and their share of power generation for the life of the project, 40 to 50 years, which allows them to go forward with their goal of having green power.