With the continuing success of community solar pv projects within the U.S. and with other nations like the UK plus Germany amongst others having seen the rise of the so called solar co-ops in recent years below is a quick snapshot of some of the diverse range of community solar projects globally. While some in scale are larger than others it’s clear to see that there is an appetite for community solar initiatives.
Created out of fear rather than necessity the solar power hub being used by numerous Nigerian communities is a purpose built meeting point that is being used by local schools. With fears in local communities regarding child safety the ‘Hello Hub’ as it is called has seen growing distribution throughout the country and allows for a safe local gathering of students who are able to learn in safety. Providing internet access to the students these solar powered learning centers are proving to be vital to the community.
What is also important to the founders Projects For All for these solar powered meeting points is the role that the local community plays in facilitating and maintaining their existence. This is due to the local community playing their part in the sourcing and building of the systems. This is vital according to “Projects For All” as it ensures ownership by the local community and the desire to ensure its long term sustainability. This model is planned to be rolled out across other deprived regions globally in the coming years with locations already planned for Haiti, Rwanda and Peru to name a few.
While not actually a floating solar panel system this project really is set to utilise space in an innovative way by covering a number of sewage ponds and with generation figures set to soar this style of community energy scheme really has set the ball rolling on numerous other facilities. The floating system itself due for completion next year will cover close to 40 acres and is set to save 100,000 tones in emissions. What makes this and other schemes on this list different is the co-operation with the local communities; the local residents were asked if they would like to par-take in this initiative with the vast majority stating they did. The benefit if this is the committed residents will be inline on completion for a close to 10% bill reduction.
The Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) which is the schemes formal name is being pioneered by Sonoma clean power a government led agency which has in its short time led this county to become the U.S. leader in solar power per capita. With two other initiatives set for release by Sonoma Clean Power in the coming months; Lancaster Choice Energy and Sustainable Westchester this marks the sign of a growing national appetite for similar type of community led solar schemes. With an additional 20 cities across the USA pushing for the CCA initiative the Sonoma Clean Power and other renewable companies able to facilitate community solar are set to be over run with partnership requests from local governors in the coming months and years.
Staying in the U.S. and again focusing on a scheme using renewable energy to utilise otherwise unused land is the community solar garden project which is set for completion in Colorado by 2020. Previously deemed as a brown field site the area is now set for huge investment in order to create a solar farm that will generate enough energy to power 500 homes annually. Similar to the previously mentioned Sonoma Clean Power projects residents who opt in are again set for a 10% reduction in their electricity bills and with no upfront costs to opt-in resident applications for the scheme is set to soon reach capacity for domestic homes.
With an expected completion cost of $25 million dollars this reiterates the growth of the sector to the extent that this is just one of many projects that the stakeholder NRG Energy is expecting to complete in the coming years. The 2 megawatt structure is being built via the subsidiary SunShare, but the overall joint deals between the two equate closer to 10 mega watts in capacity meaning an overall community solar project with the joint capacity for energy for 1600 homes.
This further underlines the growth in the sector given that this solar garden project makes up a very small percentage of just this one company’s community solar offering and with other energy providers running similar schemes and the growth in the government led Sonoma Clean Power format this is a sector set for sustained growth.
Where as the previously mentioned community project have relied on the impetus from energy companies or organisations to initiate the community offering something different is happening with a collective in Australia. A group of local residents have took it upon themselves to seek renewable change by launching a crowd funding initiative in order to realize their potential for a locally run community solar installation. Initially looking for $30,000 Australian dollars for the 15KW scheme on a housing facility this Melbourne Kick starter is now at 46% at time of writing and increasing by the day.
Based on a partnership between the St Kilda Community Housing and the no profit Alternative Technology Association (ATA) which is being overseen by the Peoples Solar initiative. Should the crowd funding project reach its goal the installation is set to save the community $100,000 over the next 20 years, but due to the nature of this scheme there is also the added benefit of employment for some of the tenants with the savings to be re-invested into training and employment schemes. The Peoples Solar initiative state that an investment of $300 Australian dollars could see the opportunity for long term employment for a resident; consequently the scheme is not only benefiting in emissions but also long term job security.
A zoo in Seattle is looking to provide the local community with the chance to benefit from solar panels via their investment scheme. The Woodland Park Zoo forms part of the “Community Solar on Phinny Ridge” scheme and will supply electricity credits which the investor can claim back from energy companies based on the amount of their investment. The credits value is based on the equivalent system savings that the resident has invested in. With the minimum amount of investment as little as $150 for a 28 watt part of an installation all the way up to a 3500 watt system equivalent customers can have the benefits of solar without having to have the system fitted on their roof.
With an expected completion date of June 2020 and ownership for the panels to converted to Phinney Neighborhood Association and the zoo on July 1st the stakeholders believe they are going to feel the benefits of the installation for the next 40 years. The Woodland Park Zoo stressed the significance of their involvement was not monetary but to take a sustainable approach to their energy needs as saving natural habitats is vital to animal species all over the world and being resourceful with their own conservation was an important part of this.
Some previous related articles of interest:
Top 5 Solar prototypes and innovations
Tesla enters domestic solar electric storage market
The future of the renewable industry