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Free Webinar - How Universities Can Expand Solar in their Communities: Lessons from Utah’s and Oregon’s Community Bulk PV Purchasing Programs

August 24, 2016
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Community Renewable Energy
Community Shared Solar Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Community renewable energy programs allow customers to purchase a share of a renewable system developed in the local community and receive the benefits of the energy that is produced by their share. Typically, community renewable energy programs feature either solar or wind power generation.

Community Shared Solar

A graphic showing an offsite solar system connected to a small town and grid towers.

Community shared solar provides access to solar power for customers who cannot put solar on their roofs. Such unsuitability can occur if a person rents, does not own roof space (e.g. condominium owners), lives in a home with suboptimal roof orientation, or lives on shaded or unsuitable land for a solar installation. Development of a community solar program allows such customers to purchase shares of a solar power system and to benefit from that system's environmental and/or economic benefits.

An example of such a community solar development is the Holy Cross Energy solar project in El Jebel, Colorado. The El Jebel community photovoltaic array is an 80 kilowatt (kW) system supported by 18 community participants that purchase shares at an upfront cost of $3.15 per watt ($3,150 per kW) and then receive a credit on their bill each month at a rate of $0.11 per kilowatt-hour.

Shared solar programs and projects can be facilitated by state policy, developed by utilities or third-parties, and subscribed to by residential, commercial, and sometimes industrial customers. For more details on shared solar programs, see Community Shared Solar FAQ.

More than 90 shared solar projects exist around the country in 25 states. For more information on trends in shared solar projects, see NREL's Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market (2015 Data) report PDF.

Community Wind

Like community solar, community wind allows groups of investors to purchase shares of a windmill or wind farm and to benefit from the environmental and/or economic benefits of wind power. Farmers and rural landowners are often involved in the development of a community wind initiative, either through leasing the large amount of land required for a wind power system, or through outright ownership of a share of the development. This type of ownership arrangement allows for localized economic development as community members possess a direct financial stake in the project, beyond the typical land lease and tax revenues of transactions with traditional power producers.

A number of projects have been developed in the last six-to-seven years.

Existing programs around the country include:


Carlisle, N., Elling, J., Penney, T. (2008). A Renewable Energy Community: Key Elements. PDF

Costanti, M., Beltrone, P. (2006). Wind Energy Guide for County Commissioners. PDF

Coughlin, J.; Grove, J.; Irvine, L.; Jacobs, J.F.; Johnson Phillips, J.; and Wiedman, J. (2012). A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-Profit Project Development. PDF DOE/GO-102012-3569. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Coughlin, J.; Grove, J.; Irvine, L.; Jacobs, J.; Johnson Phillips, S.; Moynihan, L.; Wiedman, J. (2010). A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private and Non-profit Project Development. PDF

Department of Energy. (2012). A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-Profit Project Development. PDF

Department of Energy. (2012). Community Wind Benefits. PDF. November. Accessed December 14, 2012.

Department of Energy. (2010). Community Greening: How to Develop a Strategic Energy Plan. PDF

Farrell, J. (2010). Community Solar Power: Obstacles and Opportunities. PDF The New Rules Project.

Heeter, J. and J. McLaren. (2012). Innovations in Voluntary Renewable Energy Procurement: Methods for Expanding Access and Lowering Cost for Communities, Governments, and Businesses. PDF NREL/TP-6A20-54991. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory. September.

Interstate Renewable Energy Council. (2012). Community-Shared Solar Diverse Approaches For A Common Goal. PDF

Interstate Renewable Energy Council. (2010). Community Renewables Model Program Rules. PDF

Kubert, C. (2004). Community Wind Financing. A Handbook by the Environmental Law & Policy Center. Accessed September 11, 2012.

Northwest SEED and Bonneville Environmental Foundation. (2009). The Northwest Community Solar Guide. Accessed July 18, 2012.

The Minnesota Project. (2009). Lessons and Concepts for Advancing Community Wind. PDF December. Accessed July 18, 2012.

Windustry. (2007). Community Wind Toolbox Chapter 1: Introduction to Community Wind Development. PDF (Windustry offers case studies and links to guidebooks and other information regarding community wind project development on their website.)

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