Analysis Shows That Community Solar Is Competitive in the Vast Majority of the US

Greentech Media recently reported that, “Solar power is now more affordable in the United States than at any other point in history…
In particular, community solar projects are gaining popularity, as they allow the almost half of U.S. households that may not have access to a “solar-ready” roof to take advantage of the sun’s energy and do it at a lower cost. This can make solar accessible to more low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities. Between 2010 and 2015, community solar installations grew rapidly, reaching almost 100 megawatts — and this business model has even greater potential. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates community solar could comprise up to half of the distributed PV market in 2020….

New solar data analysis from NREL explores the affordability of solar using a “savings to investment” (SIR) ratio. This metric captures the ability to recover one’s investment in solar based on the utility bill savings resulting from the solar energy generated by a given solar energy system. NREL conducted a simple SIR analysis for all 50 states by assuming that U.S. residential PV systems today cost between $3.00 per watt and $3.50 per watt and last 25 to 35 years. In this scenario, it could be cost-effective for households to make a shift to solar in a quarter to half of states without any state or local incentives.

Because community solar projects are often larger and can take advantage of bulk pricing, their installed costs are more in-line with commercial solar systems, which cost approximately $2.00 per watt to $2.50 per watt. Holding everything else constant, the number of states in the analysis with positive SIRs increases to 35-48 states with these lower installed costs, which means solar energy is potentially affordable in the vast majority of the country through the community solar business model.

Though this is a very basic analysis, it illustrates that solar is quickly becoming one of the most cost-effective sources of energy for all Americans, regardless of where they live.

However, a recent report by the George Washington University Solar Institute shows that while 49.1 million households earn less than $40,000 of income per year and make up 40 percent of all U.S. households, they only account for less than 5 percent of solar installations. Providing the means for all communities to benefit from solar energy will help the U.S. meet its climate goals while also helping to create a fair market for solar that allows everyone, regardless of where they live or their financial status, to benefit from clean energy.

The enormous opportunity to expand solar electricity access to LMI households is why the SunShot Initiative launched the Solar in Your Community Challenge. Building on the recent White House announcement of the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative, the challenge will enable the expansion of the solar market to a diverse array of new consumers, especially LMI households and nonprofit, community-serving organizations. Given the analysis from NREL, we have high hopes that the Solar in Your Community Challenge will be the starting point for a solar revolution among new populations…”

Hancock Shaker Village getting greener: Community Solar project underway

The Berkshire Eagle reported on another Community Solar Project that Relay Power is helping customers connect to:


Construction of a community solar project is well underway to benefit Eversource customers throughout Western Massachusetts.

The three separate solar arrays being installed on the grounds of Hancock Shaker Village should be completed around Jan. 1 and hopefully operational early next year, according to Syncarpha Solar LLC.

The New York City-based firm, partnered with Renewable Energy Massachusetts, will have a 1-megawatt array on the Pittsfield-side of the living museum along Route 20 and two, 2-megawatt facilities in the town of Hancock.

Collectively, the solar energy generating system will feed the electricity produced into the Eversource power grid, and the three array ownership entities would be set up as Community Shared Solar facilities.

That means residents of the Berkshires who are Eversource customers can buy energy net-metering credits at a discount and realize energy savings, project officials have said.

“You can subscribe for net-metering credits before [the project] is up and running,” said Matt Preskenis, Syncarpha’s vice president of community solar.

Syncarpha’s plan is to target residential customers of Eversource, and also municipalities or educational institutions to contract for the remaining credits

Hancock Shaker Village also makes money off the project as the developers’ facilities would provide lease income for the museum for up to a 30-year period.

“All [27 acres] of the leased land is outside the viewshed of the restored Shaker village,” said acting board of trustees Chairman, Richard Seltzer in a statement. “This environmentally sound use of land is consistent with Shaker ideals and will contribute rents which will facilitate the educational mission of Hancock Shaker Village.”

The developers plan to install at least a seven-foot fence around the arrays and properly screen the Pittsfield site with natural vegetation to minimize the visual impact to neighbors across Route 41.

Syncarpha views the Pittsfield/Hancock solar arrays in keeping with the museum’s mission of sustainability.

“It really goes along with the value of the Shakers,” said project developer Keith Akers.

Preskenis added, “The projects we get most excited about are the tones that work well and align with our customer’s philosophy.”

For information on the Hancock Shaker Village solar project, go to