For decades, typically only homeowners with enough rooftop space, the proper roof tilt, and just the right orientation to the sun had the option to power their homes with solar. The average cost of solar panels has dropped precipitously over the last decade, making solar a rapidly growing and affordable source of clean, renewable power for U.S. consumers. About 360,000 U.S. households have installed solar energy systems to date. However, many Americans face challenges adopting solar. Perhaps they rent instead of own, or share a roof with neighbors in a condominium building. Maybe their homes have north-facing roofs or too much shade.
There’s good news for people in this predicament: an innovative model for solar deployment, called shared solar, can help Americans take advantage of solar energy’s many benefits regardless of their housing situation. Participants in a shared solar program contribute directly to the deployment of a solar energy system, typically by owning or leasing a portion of the system or purchasing some of its energy output. In turn, they can slash their electricity bills.
Existing shared solar programs managed by utilities, entrepreneurial communities, and innovative solar developers are reaching a largely untapped market and realizing the financial benefits of the purchasing power of larger groups. Such programs have many siting options for solar energy systems, including municipal buildings, school and church rooftops, and reclaimed lands like landfills. Apartment residents can participate in offsite programs or join forces with neighbors by using their own shared rooftop. Additionally, the President’s Climate Action Plan directs agencies to achieve a goal of installing 100 megawatts of renewable energy on federally-subsidized housing by 2020, approximately a five-fold increase from today, and these units represent a prime opportunity to utilize shared solar.
Image information: Shared solar projects allow consumers to take advantage of solar energy’s myriad benefits, even though the system is not located on the consumer’s own rooftop. | Photo courtesy of the Vote Solar Initiative