Solar Photovoltaic Risks, Barriers, Opportunities
It has long been proven to be sustainable and it is the least costly method of generating electricity. If you have not looked at the economics of PV in awhile it may be time to look. A recent study found that every customer in Michigan would save money with PV.
Community-Scale Solar Energy
Community-scale solar energy consists of locally owned projects that cost between $50,000 and $500,000 and typically supply electricity for local applications, such as schools, hospitals, businesses, farms, ranches or other community facilities. In some cases, rural electric co-ops or municipal utilities have developed these types of solar projects to diversify their electricity supply. In other cases, individuals can form an independent power producer or LLC to sell the power they produce to a local electricity supplier. Locally owned solar projects tend to have greater economic impacts because they are locally owned and so keep profits local, and they are often more acceptable to residents because residents have greater influence on their location, setback distances, program design and overall aesthetics, in addition to being investors or shareholders.
Community Solar is an attractive option, where individual solar panels (or shares of a bigger solar system) can voluntarily be purchased by subscribers in the local community. This means that solar facilities are shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. This model for solar is being rapidly adopted nationwide. Community solar makes solar projects more accessible to individuals to participate, often offering multiple price points, buy-in options, or financing such that individuals can use the credits they are earning to pay off their investment in the panels. Michigan does not currently have any statewide community solar initiatives or enabling policies. States with such statewide programs (i.e. Minnesota, Colorado) have seen much faster expansion of community solar than Michigan. Still, community solar is possible in Michigan. Municipal utilities, rural electric co-ops, and investor-owned utilities all have the authority to start community solar projects within their service territories in Michigan. This generally means that you have to live within the service territory of a community solar project, led by the utility.
Technical assistance is available through the National Community Solar Partnership, or reference this Guide to Community Solar. The Solarize Guidebook offers advice on collective purchasing of residential PV systems, using Portland, Oregon as a model. The Energy Democracy initiative through the Institute for Local Self Reliance also includes community solar resources. Community Solar projects sometimes specifically integrate energy efficiency and other efforts to be more accessible to low-to-moderate income households, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) Low- to Moderate- Income Access Program. Michigan community solar projects include: Cherryland Cooperative in Grand Traverse County, Lansing, L'Anse, Marquette, and a Solar Gardens project through Consumer's Energy.