What is Community Solar?
Community Solar is the future of solar, and Pivot Energy is helping lead the way
About Community Solar
When people typically think about solar energy, they picture solar modules on a rooftop of a building or home. However, many households and businesses are not suitable for this type of solar installation. Factors such as renting, residing in multi-dwelling buildings, or having roofs that are unable to host solar for several reasons. We consider community solar as the great equalizer of renewable energy access.
Depending on your location, and often as a result of the local legislation, community solar can be called by a variety of names – shared solar, community distributed generation, roofless solar, solar gardens, and solar farms. With all of these names, it can seem confusing. However, all community solar programs have the same intended outcome – to provide the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy to those who do not own their roof, or are limited because of shade, roof quality, roof tilt, some other physical limitation, or simply do not want a solar array on their property. Community solar also expands access to low-to-moderate income residents who typically would not be able to afford the large up-front cost of a rooftop system. With community solar, all commercial, industrial, municipal, and residential customers can benefit from solar energy.
A Brief History in Community Solar
Prior to the first community solar program launched in Colorado in 2010, solar energy was only an option for affluent organizations and residents. To be able to install solar on a property, you would have to own the building or land. Additionally, a home or business owner would have to have enough capital or be creditworthy enough to finance the array. Furthermore, even if the funds are available, roof quality, shading from other buildings or trees, or type of roof can disqualify a property from installing a system. These restrictions severely limited the accessibility of solar. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimate that only 50% of rooftops, for both residential and commercial buildings, are suitable for solar arrays. In order for solar to achieve scale, legislators and companies needed to develop a more efficient way of implementing solar.
In 2010, Colorado did just that, by passing the first of a kind Community Solar Gardens Act, HB 10-1342. The Act would change two significant ways that monopoly or investor-owned utilities (IOU) worked with solar developers. The first change would affect the relationship with the utilities had with their customers. The bill allows third-party solar developers to sell the electricity generated by the solar gardens to anyone who is serviced in the same utility territory. The second change allowed third-party developers to construct solar facilities to generate electricity that connects directly to the utility’s electric grid. The energy produced is on behave of a conglomerate of residents and organizations that share in the solar output. The legislation was significant and brought several benefits to Colorado. For the utilities, it helps them reach their renewable portfolio standards (RPS) set by local legislation. Also, by diversifying the energy mix with solar, and upgrading the utilities’ grid with interconnection upgrades, community solar developers help build grid reliance. For the local communities in which shared solar exists, it has provided jobs, clean energy, and the environmental benefits associated with a reduction in fossil-fuels, and electrical choice for consumers.
Since the first community solar legislation was passed, 43 states now have at least one community solar project. The market has grown from its first few kilowatts in 2011 to 1.4 gigawatts in 21018 nationally, making it the fastest-growing segment of the solar industry.
Did you know...
Estimated lifetime offsets for our solar arrays
0 lbsCO2 Avoided
0 VehiclesPassenger Vehicles Driven
0 lbsCoal Not Burned
The most significant benefit of community solar is expanding solar access to everyone. With Pivot’s community solar projects, customers subscribe to an array, directly supporting solar projects in their local area. As part of their subscription, customers will receive credits from the utility for the power produced by the community solar project, lowering their utility bills. Additional benefits, including the following:
Pivot Energy and Community Solar
Pivot began community solar operations in 2016 and has developed over 50 MW to date. Our team of experienced community solar professionals handles all aspects of project development in house, including development/EPC, land acquisition, project finance, project ownership, and system maintenance. As a Denver-based solar developer, we completed our first portfolio of projects in Colorado, and have since expanded into the Midwest with projects in Illinois and Michigan. Our projects serve a wide range of customers from businesses, non-profits, and schools, to low-income housing organizations and residents.
Our services do not stop at developing community solar projects. In 2018, Pivot launched SunCentral, a proprietary community solar customer management platform designed to simplify and improve the developer and customer experience. As project developers ourselves, we saw a critical need in the market for a community solar management platform that provides infrastructure robust enough to manage the complexity of community solar programs while simplifying the experience for subscribers.
By being both a project and a platform developer, Pivot is expanding our mission of accelerating the shift to clean energy in communities throughout the nation.