SolarShares: Expanding Access to Solar Power

Community shared solar programs offer a key soft cost reduction opportunity, particularly for publicly owned utilities. The North Carolina Solar Center, as part of the Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, presents a case study showing how the Sacramento Municipal Utility District has been able to market its SolarShares program to its customers and meet some of its overall customer demand for solar with off-site utility-scale projects that can take advantage of strategic siting and maximize benefits to the utility grid. Publicly owned utilities can learn from this example, as it can help its customers with unsuitable sites (including those customers with trees shading their property, or who do not own their home) to invest in solar.

Some highlights of the study include:

  • Utility-sponsored community solar programs like SolarShares are an excellent way to make solar accessible to renters and homeowners with unsuitable sites for solar PV. According to NREL, only 22-27% of U.S. roof area is suitable for PV development. This precludes many people from owning their own rooftop solar PV system and is why community solar programs like SolarShares are important to expand access to solar power.
  • SMUD’s SolarShares program reduces soft costs by reducing customer acquisition and design costs. It also allows customers to take advantage of economies of scale.
  • The program has been so successful, a second 1-MW PV array is planned. SMUD’s program sets a good example for other municipal utilities looking to expand access to solar power in their community.