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Community Renewable Energy Development

Community renewable energy development can take many forms, including offering a community renewable energy program, developing a community green power challenge, or developing local renewable projects. Some communities are installing renewable energy on local government facilities. For example, the City of Boulder installed a biomass burner to heat its county jail. Other local governments are installing solar on school buildings or community centers. For more information, see examples of state and local governments that have installed on-site renewable energy systems.

Community Renewable Energy Programs

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. For example, the Holy Cross Energy solar project in El Jebel, Colorado is an 80 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic 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.

A number of programs have been developed recently, particularly in the Northwest. For examples of programs, see A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-Profit Project Development. PDF

Existing programs around the country include:

Community Green Power Challenges

Local communities can encourage community members to purchase green power by developing a green power challenge. In many cases, communities partner with local utilities, third-party marketers, and/or environmental organizations to raise awareness of green power purchasing options. With buy-in from a large stakeholder group, community challenges can provide multiple communication avenues. Short term "green power challenges" set goals for having a certain fraction of their residents and businesses purchase green power within a specified time, usually about six months.

For example, in 2009, Lake Oswego, Oregon launched a two-month Green Power Challenge, attracting new customers to purchase green power through Portland General Electric's renewable energy programs. The campaign increased the community's collective green power participation rate to more than 12 percent and bumped up the city's consumption of renewable energy to about 9 percent (35 million kWh) of its total demand.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes Green Power Communities. EPA Green Power Communities must collectively use between three and twenty percent green power, depending on the annual electricity use of the community.

Many communities have implemented challenges, including:


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

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

Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Northwest SEED. (n.d.) The Northwest Community Solar Guide. PDF

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

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.

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

Moynihan, L. (2010). "Community Solar in Seattle." PDF Presentation at the Renewable Energy Markets 2010 Conference. October 22.

Windustry (n.d.) Community Wind Toolbox Chapter 1: Introduction to Community Wind Development. PDF

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