Community Solar Farm

Community Solar Can Supplement Rooftop

Rooftop solar has been booming in recent years, but by itself it’s not enough. Even homes with good exposure can’t always produce 100% of the occupant’s usage. According to a recent article from the NRDC, community solar developments could be the solution.

Community Solar is a way for multiple households to access clean energy. Programs differ, but basically each household gets a share of the field and receives credit for that share’s production on their electric bill. The fields are accessible to more residential electric users than rooftop installations, which face obstacles such as roof exposure, upfront costs, structural issues, and shade. The article reported that solar fields are a way to get low cost and accessible renewable energy. “In the study, commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), analysts from the Brattle Group found that community solar could be a more cost-effective and powerful carbon-cutting tool than individual rooftop installations.”

The panels in a solar farm can also be placed for optimal production and generate more efficiently than rooftop installations can. “The study compared 200 hypothetical zero net energy (ZNE) homes in both Minnesota and New Mexico and determined that the cost of installing community solar to power ZNE homes was 30 to 35 percent less than individual rooftop installations… The savings from community solar are due in part to economies of scale, as well the technological advantages of a large, offsite array. Large solar arrays can be adjusted to catch more light throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky, and be oriented in an optimal direction, and thus generate more electricity than rooftop panels. And by offering an offsite location, community solar enables more people to use solar energy, even if they don’t have enough space on the roof or if their rooftop is shady.”

As more states and local communities push for “net zero” goals, with California pledging to go 100% renewable and zero carbon by 2045, community solar has an important role to play. Here in Massachusetts, where we have older buildings and lots of trees, many homes only get part of their bills covered by rooftop, or don’t qualify at all. Click below to find out what programs are available to you.

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“Solar should be able to benefit everyone!”

Hancock Community Solar

Community Solar Farm in Hancock, MA

Until now, solar was mostly available to affluent homeowners with a perfectly situated roof, or to large companies. Luckily, that’s starting to change. According to a recent Greentech Media article by Emma Foehringer Merchant, “How to Build Community Solar Projects for the Masses,” community solar is positioned to make clean energy affordable and accessible to previously underserved communities.

“A new report from GTM Research, Wood Mackenzie and Vote Solar, a solar accessibility advocate, notes that 50 to 75 percent of U.S. consumers don’t have access to conventional rooftop installations. But if it is executed properly, community solar can change that… ‘Solar should be able to benefit everyone,’ said MJ Shiao, head of Americas research at GTM Research. ‘But it’s difficult to apply onsite solar to folks who rent, or to low-income communities….’ ”

It’s often difficult or impossible to put solar up on rental units or condos, which bars a lot of customers from the market. Especially in urban areas, where living space comes at a premium and a lot of people rent, this is a serious obstacle for meeting the demand for clean energy. In addition to the environmental benefits of solar projects, there are also some real financial benefit. The savings from solar projects have not been accessible to the populations who arguably could benefit the most from them.

Community solar could go beyond just making solar more accessible; it could be developed to help specific populations: “GTM Research notes in its report that ‘community solar can be used as a tool to target benefits to communities historically have been at the front lines of environmental pollution and negative impacts from traditional energy generation.’”

Analysts recommend job training programs, siting preferences and community-focused incentives to provide benefits to populations that have been sidelined by the electricity system. Baking environmental justice initiatives into community solar development can also have positive impacts on public health.”

It’s a win on all sides – generate jobs in places that need them, offer the financial benefits of solar to new and underserved populations, improve the quality of the environment by replacing polluting power plants, and give more people the ability to choose clean power.

More solar farms are going up across Massachusetts – find out here if there is a community solar project that serves your area!

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The Highest Impact Choices You Can Make for the Environment

Facing climate change can seem overwhelming, but the choices we each make have a huge impact. Supporting clean power over fossil fuels is not only great for the planet, it’s also great for your bottom line. Check out this graphic on the best actions you can take.

Personal Choices To Reduce Your Contribution To Climate Change

What can I do to make the biggest difference?

The study behind this graphic addresses how we perceive the environmental impact of our habits. Choices that get a lot of buzz as environmentally friendly are not necessarily as impactful as you’d hope. In their peer reviewed study “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions,” Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas analyze what widely applicable changes individuals can make to offset the most carbon.

They found that while things like recycling, changing light bulbs, or switching to hybrids get a lot of coverage, there are far more impactful things we can do. For example, they found that eating a plant based diet is four times more effective than comprehensive recycling, and eight times more effective than changing out a home’s light bulbs.

Their top four impactful decisions included having one less child, living car free, avoiding one transatlantic flight, and switching a household to clean energy. However, when compared to recommendations in textbooks and government papers, these changes were mentioned much less frequently than things like recycling, conserving water, and looking at home efficiency improvements.

The study stressed that getting the facts out to well-meaning consumers, especially in developed areas with high carbon footprints, is crucial to mitigating climate change. While some of the recommendations are difficult to fully implement, clean power is one choice that has become increasingly accessible.

Flying or driving might be unavoidable where you live or with the your job, and having children is a very personal decision. But supporting clean power is easy.  You’re already buying electricity.  Why not vote with your dollars to support clean, local energy? At Relay Power we’ve helped hundreds of Massachusetts residents save money and help the environment by educating them on the clean power offerings available to them and helping them choose the best fit.

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Build More to Drive Down the Price of Wind and Solar

Spring Canyon Wind Farm

Turbines at the Spring Canyon Wind Farm outside Peetz, Colo. The farm is owned by Invenergy, and produces energy under contract to Xcel Energy. Credit Ryan David Brown for The New York Times

According to a recent NY Times article, one electric utility is embracing wind and solar, not for environmental reasons, but because “In parts of the country, wind and solar plants built from scratch now offer the cheapest power available, even counting old coal, which was long seen as unbeatable…

How, exactly, did the cleanest energy technologies get on path to become the cheapest?  In a way, the story is as old as Henry Ford and his Model T, or in more recent times, the amazing progress of computer chips.  As they scale up, new technologies often follow a ‘learning curve’ that cuts the cost.  But it’s not automatic.  You have to build more and more units to drive the prices down.  That happened naturally with consumer products like Model Ts and cellphones, since everybody who saw the things wanted one.  But the electricity system was a hidebound, monopolistic industry that used to spend virtually nothing on innovation…

But most utilities are still only doing what governments have required of them.”  Luckily, we can still help promote building more and more clean power units and help drive the cost down further.

 

“Solar is not just expanding today because it’s green or clean — those are side benefits”

“Solar is not just expanding today because it’s green or clean — those are side benefits,” Lamon says. “Look at what it can help do to the overall U.S. economy. … We find people making $8, $9 an hour flipping burgers, and we bring them to a solar plant and pay them $18.”  This quote is from the Time magazine article, “A Coal Executive Switched to Building Solar Plants…

The article goes on to say, the aforementioned coal executive, Jim Lamon’s, company, “Depcom Power employs more than 1,600 people designing, building and operating solar farms with projects spread across the country from blue states like California to red states like Mississippi. Across the industry, more than 250,000 people in total work in solar in the U.S. typically in rural areas.”

DEPCOM construction crews assemble solar modules during the construction of the 55 megawatt Idaho Solar plant. Rusty Hill- SkyBlue Media

“…Lamon believed that low-cost solar would continue to serve as a more affordable energy source than coal and often natural gas no matter what came policy emerged from the White House. Indeed, that’s why he began building solar power plants in the first place. Without subsidies, electricity from large-scale solar power plants currently costs about a third the cost of coal and is about even with natural gas, according to data from the financial advisory firm Lazard. It’s even cheaper with subsidies.” the article continues.

August customer success stories

Larry is retired and likes that his new #rooftopsolar will help the local economy with local jobs but he loves the money he will be saving with Relay Power #solarisworking #cleanenergy #solarenergy

 

Steve is a musician that looked into #rooftopsolar but the trees around his home didn’t make it possible. With #communitysolar from Relay Power he is able to #gosolar and keep the trees. #solarisworking #solarenergy

 

Tamara and her family bought a #rooftopsolar system two years ago but didn’t have enough roof space to offset all their energy needs. Now with #communitysolar from Relay Power to go along with their existing solar her family is 100% #solarenergy and maxing their discount on electricity. #solarisworking

July customer success stories

Pat and Chris are looking forward to knocking more dirty energy off the electric grid with #communitysolar from Relay Power #solarisworking #solarenergy #solargarden #actonclimate

 

Delores is installing #rooftopsolar without increasing any costs and decreasing her energy bill by 30% #solarisworking #newbedford

 

Using Relay Power innovative approach to #cleanenergy Matthew found that #rooftopsolar & #communitysolar was the best approach to his all electric home. #solarisworking #solarenergy #solargarden

 

Having #rooftopsolar on the front of her historic home was not ideal for Shannon and her family so with Relay Power they are going solar with #communitysolar and a local #solargarden in #plymouthmass #solarisworking

 

After being in the Army for years and traveling across the country, Frank is aware that we don’t always take care of our land the way we should. That is why he is subscribing to #communitysolar with Relay Power and using #cleanenergy for his home. #solarisworking #localenergy #solarenergy

 

Kathryn and Shap want clean energy and are no fans of fracking. Their roof isn’t great for rooftop so #communitysolar through the Plymouth #solargarden with Relay Power still allows them to #gosolar and save on electricity. #solarisworking #solarenergy

 

Saturday morning coffee and #communitysolar for Julie & Bill. #cleanenergy #solarisworking #localenergy #localjobs #solarenergy

 

Dr. Dossot is already an efficient electric user but wants his energy coming from a local #solargarden in #plymouth. #solarisworking #harvestthesunshine #solar #solarenergy

 

Just two @universityofri alums that enjoy #cleanenergy #communitysolar #solargarden #solarisworking #harvestthesunshine