Catalyzing Community Solar: A Handbook for Municipalities
Community solar is an innovative new investment model that can provide Americans with the many benefits of solar energy even if they cannot site a system on their own property because they are renters, have roofs that are shaded or in disrepair, or they are not able to finance a solar installation. These barriers are particularly prevalent in less affluent areas, making community solar a promising way to improve access to renewable energy in low-income neighborhoods. This Handbook is intended to help municipalities clearly define and articulate the project’s objectives and understand the financial, legal, and policy issues they would need to address to initiate community solar investments in their communities and convey the resulting benefits to their constituents. The Handbook identifies three obstacles to success — access to capital, expertise, and risk-allocation — and includes suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles, including the potential use of public funds to reduce the project’s cost and public-private partnerships. This study also includes ideas gleaned from other community solar projects that appear particularly interesting or innovative. In addition, it offers five possible deployment models municipalities could use to support, finance, or build a community solar project in their jurisdictions. There are no simple, one-size-fits-all, models for a successful community solar project. However, a municipality can be a catalyst and hub for development of the necessary expertise, and it has opportunities to help reduce project costs and risks that can open the door for successful projects.