The first generation of community solar—typically midsize, grid-connected solar projects that community members or organizations can subscribe to—enabled greater access to solar energy in many US states. However, community solar has the potential to do far more for communities.
By Stephen Abbott, Amanda Farthing, Matthew Popkin, Madeline Tyson
As local governments increasingly advance local decarbonization and climate resilience, they are often confronted by the many competing priorities for their limited financial resources. While every renewable energy project provides added values—from construction jobs to increased public awareness and education about renewables—carefully and purposefully designed community solar projects are uniquely well-suited to unlock even more value streams.
This report outlines the concept of community solar+: community solar projects that are strategically deployed to maximize local value streams and advance community-wide sustainability and equity goals. With deliberate planning, key stakeholders can design and deploy community solar projects that provide additional benefits to the communities they serve. These benefits include:
- Accelerating investment in EV charging
- Increasing energy resilience for critical assets and vulnerable communities
- Aligning the evolving needs of customers and the grid for an electrified future
- Creating a more equitable energy system
- Providing covered parking and weather protection
- Mitigating urban heat island effects
The analysis, guidance, and recommendations provided in this report illustrate how state and local governments, utilities, developers, and community members can think more deliberately about full project value, and encourage them to do so when planning, designing, and deploying new community solar projects.