Electric Cooperatives Helping to Build Community Solar 'Gardens'

Kit Carson community solar project

Kit Carson community solar project

Sol Luna Solar

Some U.S. electric cooperatives are helping customers overcome obstacles to residential installation of photovoltaic arrays by building solar "gardens," also known as community solar projects, according to an article at IEEE Smart Grid. Barriers to consumers installing their own PV system include high initial investment costs, determination of long-term costs and benefits, the complexities of tax deductions and credits, obtaining grants and other incentives, and unpredictable maintenance charges.

Community solar projects are centralized solar projects in which consumers can purchase a “garden plot” of panels outright or subscribe to output from the garden and obtain the same benefits as if the PV panels were operating on their own premises: They thereby reduce their metered energy consumption and can even "run the meter backwards” when their solar panel output exceeds their consumption.

Solar power is not actually physically transmitted from the PV arrays to the customer over the cooperative’s distribution lines. Instead, the cooperative makes a transactive energy transfer in which customer's energy consumption is offset by their solar garden output, just as if the panels were operating on their own premises on their side of the utility's meter. The amount of solar capacity that the consumer can purchase is limited so that it doesn’t actually provide more energy annually than the consumer uses...(IEEE Smart Grid)


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