Published January 2017 by the Community Owned Shared Renewables Group of the Energy Democracy Alliance
In July of 2015, Governor Cuomo announced the Shared Renewables Initiative, which aims to make solar power accessible to the millions of New Yorkers who currently lack access, by enabling innovative solar projects that could serve hundreds of homes and businesses remotely. This sparked an explosion in interest across the state. In fact, demand for community shared solar has been growing faster than any other segment of the solar industry in NY. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that community solar could make up half of the distributed PV market as early as 2020. This makes sense when we consider that the vast majority of Americans either: 1. don’t own their home, or 2. don’t have an appropriate roof or other space solar panels, or 3. don’t think they have the financial resources to be able to get conventional solar loans or leases.
This high level of interest is very good news for anyone who wants to accelerate the clean energy transition. Experience has shown, in countries like Denmark and Germany, that when widespread participation and ownership opportunities are afforded to citizens, broad public support for energy transition policies result. However all of these projects face significant hurdles. Despite the interest and enthusiasm, only one community solar project was switched on within the year and a half following the Governor’s announcement, and it does not serve low and moderate income families.