Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Community-owned solar: Like drinking milk without caring for the cow

Community-owned solar power is on the rise in the U.S. Kent James, chief strategy officer of Martifer Solar USA has implemented a series of projects with the Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective. In the following interview, he speaks to pv magazine about the benefits and barriers of the model, and discusses why the real traction for rapid solar garden development lies in its broad appeal for utilities.

Could you briefly describe the concept of community-owned solar?
We liken community-owned solar to community gardens: members buy their own "plot" of an array, and collect the power it produces in the form of a monthly bill credit. There are a few key factors that distinguish community-owned solar from other community solar models:
Arrays are built and maintained by a third party contractor/developer at no upfront cost to program participants or their presiding utilities;
Program participants actually purchase and own their panel(s), rather than leasing them or buying the power they produce; and
Operations and maintenance funds are held in a third party managed fund, not by members or by the participating utility.

Essentially, members pay to park on the grid. In the same way that everybody wants to drink milk without caring for a cow, we have found that residents and businesses across America want to participate in the solar movement without the complexities of building and operating individual systems. Keep in mind that there are several successful variations of this model.

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