Community solar sites, also called shared solar or solar gardens, let customers buy, lease, or subscribe to a larger, off-site shared PV system nearby and receive credits on their monthly electricity bills.
These projects offer several benefits to residents, the environment, and the local economy. Customers gain access to affordable and clean energy, which can reduce monthly utility costs and improve energy independence. The sites create well-paying jobs during installation and for long-term operations and maintenance (O&M), stimulating economic growth in the area while providing an additional source of revenue for the local government. For the environment, community solar helps reduce the need for fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases and limit the impact of energy generation on local ecosystems.
With significant federal funding in the pipeline to increase community solar deployment, C&I solar project developers and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firms are uniquely positioned to assist in this deployment, grow their businesses, and enable access to more equitable renewable energy sources.
EPA Announces Guidelines for Community Solar Grants
Although the country remains in the early stages of implementing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the wheels are in motion on many of this historic legislation’s initiatives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced initial guidance on the design of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). This fund will provide financial and technical assistance to projects that reduce carbon emissions with clean energy investments.
The GGRF establishes programs to distribute grants: the $7 billion Zero-Emissions Technology Fund Competition and the $19.97 billion General Assistance and Low-Income and Disadvantaged Communities Program. Via the Zero-Emissions Technology Fund Competition, the EPA will award competitive grants to states, Tribes, municipalities, and eligible nonprofit entities prioritizing community solar deployment in low-income and disadvantaged communities.
These programs come in addition to the Investment Tax Credit extension, which will help incentivize additional community solar deployment. The grants and credits have created cause for considerable optimism for this sector. With total installed community solar capacity for 2022 estimated at 5.27 GWdc, Wood Mackenzie forecasts a 118% increase in the country’s community solar market by 2028.
Enabling Equitable Solar Energy Access
People living in low-income and disadvantaged communities face considerable roadblocks in terms of enjoying the benefits of renewable energy. They often rent an apartment or house, which precludes them from having the choice to install a rooftop PV system. Meanwhile, the initial investment might be too costly, even if they own their home.
That’s why community solar projects make an ideal option for enabling more equitable access to renewable energy since customers don’t own the system or have to make a significant upfront investment. All they have to do is sign- up.
Commenting on the EPA’s announcement, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Tom Carper, said, “I applaud EPA’s leadership for their work to meeting our ambitious targets within this program, which is likely going to result in the largest-ever federal investment in rooftop and community solar projects in low-income and disadvantaged communities.”
This competition will ensure all families can benefit from clean and affordable energy options.
Putting the “Community” in Community Solar
EPA expects to award up to 60 grants under this competition. Although the funds will go to states, Tribes, municipalities, and eligible nonprofit organizations, these entities will need EPCs and project developers in the C&I solar sector to cost-effectively invest the grant money in a community solar system that delivers the best possible value.
EPCs can help meet the rising demand for community solar projects by using their expertise in the solar energy industry. They will need to understand the needs of the local community and the available resources to design and construct efficient, cost-effective systems and address local needs. EPCs can also provide installation and maintenance services to ensure the system's long-term performance.
Developers will be tasked with ensuring the projects generate the necessary revenue to cover the initial costs by leveraging these financial incentives and working with local utility companies to negotiate favorable rates for the energy produced by the system.
But being uniquely positioned to meet this demand and being able to close the deal are two separate items. That’s where Trina Solar C&I Solutions can be the difference.
Trina Solar C&I Solutions makes it easier for EPCs and developers to deliver more community solar project value. With its one-stop-shop approach that streamlines procurement, optimizes component interoperability, and mitigates installation risks, Trina Solar C&I Solutions helps lower the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for community solar sites.
At Trina Solar US, we understand that building a more sustainable future requires more than only providing PV modules. It means ensuring communities of all backgrounds and incomes share the benefits of renewable energy sources like solar power. Through our partnerships and robust customer support offerings, we remain committed to building a more sustainable future in every way possible.
Want to learn more about how Trina Solar C&I Solutions can help EPCs and project developers deliver more community solar project value? Reach out today!
Smart Energy Solutions
delivered straight to your inbox