With winter in full swing, energy costs have entered the forefront of many people’s minds. Heating costs have risen exponentially in the last decade, and many communities feel the need to take action. Whether they are looking to lower fuel costs or become more energy independent, the idea of community solar projects have captured the imagination of many.
While the biggest market for solar technology remains residential, more communities have begun to develop solar projects. Community solar projects are just what the name implies — projects with an installation scope capable of addressing the particular needs of a community. Whether they are utility-sponsored, a public-private partnership, or the innovation of a local nonprofit effort, community solar projects are demonstrating their long-term viability as a safe and renewable form of energy.
One example of a community solar project can be found in Northern New England in the Town of Brewster, Massachusetts. Located in the Cape Cod region, the town is in a unique geographical position for solar energy production. Solar panels operate more efficiently when they’re cool. Brewster’s proximity to the ocean provides cool breezes on sunny days, making solar panels extremely productive.
In 2009, stakeholders developed the concept for the Brewster Community Solar Garden® Project. Using a field in a former sand pit located in an industrial zone, the community installed a large solar array. The panels generate electricity which is then conditioned and metered to the utility grid at the site. The facility provides enough locally grown solar energy to power dozens of businesses and households in Brewster.
For local government managers and community leaders interested in learning more about how they can structure a community solar project, a good resource is A Guide for Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-Profit Project Development. To learn more, go to http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/49930.pdf.
Also, to read SEPA’s Utility Community Solar Handbook, go to http://www.solarelectricpower.org/media/71959/solarops-community-solar-handbook.pdf.
1 From the Brewster Community Solar Garden® Cooperative at www.brewstercommunitysolargarden.com. Website live as of November 13, 2013.