Submission from Karl Kemnitzer
At the meeting of energy committee members in the Vermont State House last February 2, several town representatives asked the joint House and Senate Natural Resources and Energy session for a template for Community Solar Energy projects. There are already CSE projects being worked on: Brattleboro – Coop Power, Hartland – Solar Hartland, Middlebury – Acorn Energy, Poultney – Energize Vermont, and Waitsfield – Mad River Energy Network. They are each approaching the financial and management structures differently.
CSE’s have several advantages:
- The solar array can be located in an optimal location, maximizing energy production
- Solar Hartland surveyed 15 sites and talked with several hundred people last summer, and found that only about 1/3 of homes were good sites for a solar array in our area, and a similar NREL survey estimated 22-27%. A community site could serve the other 2/3’s of homes.
- A central location minimizes planning, initial cost by using economy of scale, and maintenance.
- The CSE can be structured to fit local customers and businesses for the best tax fit and financial return compared to an individual homeowner, and can attract investors.
- A CSE can accommodate small share prices.
- A common template would help new towns set up their models.
The current best practices are summarized in a US DOE publication “A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-profit Project Development” , which can be downloaded in PDF format from NREL or the Solar America Communities program. This publication summarizes different ownership and billing models, tax considerations, grants, credits, and securities rules.
There is also a small discussion group that is part of Energize Vermont, contact Lukas Snelling: email@example.com
For many homeowners and businesses, a CSE will be a step up from a conventionally financed privately located system.