GRID Alternatives awarded $4.4 million in funding for California’s first low-income community solar projects

The California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) announced final awards totaling $4.4 million to GRID Alternatives for two Community Solar Pilot projects in Contra Costa and Riverside Counties. These first-in-California low-income community solar projects are part of California Climate Investments and will make the cost-saving benefits of solar energy accessible to more low-income households while contributing to California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“CSD is excited to have the opportunity to pilot new program models like community solar to help ensure that the investments the state is making to fight climate change continue to benefit all Californians,” said CSD Director Linné Stout. “The innovative projects that are being funded under the Community Solar Pilot Program will deliver financial savings to low-income households that otherwise can’t be served by existing solar programs, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Program details

The Community Solar Pilot Program, part of CSD’s Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), is designed to reduce energy costs for households that are not currently able to benefit from existing low-income solar programs. Most Californians face barriers to traditional rooftop solar, including those who rent, don’t have a roof suitable for solar, who live in an apartment building, or lack financing options.

Well-designed community solar increases access to clean renewable energy by enabling multiple households or buildings to participate in a larger scale shared solar installation located in their community. The goal of CSD’s Community Solar Pilot Program is to provide funding for the implementation and testing of models to deliver community solar to low-income households in innovative ways that have the potential to be replicated elsewhere and to scale, reduce greenhouse gas and toxic air emissions, reduce household energy costs, and provide workforce development opportunities and other co-benefits to communities.

“Community solar can provide more equitable access to renewable power and the clean energy economy. We’re thrilled to be part of California’s first community solar projects which will exclusively benefit low-income families,” said Stan Greschner, chief policy and business development officer with GRID Alternatives. “Not only will the Community Solar Pilot Program directly lower residents’ energy costs and provide workforce development opportunities in low-income communities, but these projects will be models for scalable programs in the future.”

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

GRID’s projects

Following a competitive procurement, CSD selected two projects led by GRID Alternatives to receive funding under the Pilot. GRID has partnered with the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and City of Richmond for these community solar projects.

GRID Alternatives Inland Empire was awarded $2.05 million to install a 994 kilowatt (kW) ground mounted solar array in partnership with the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Anza Electric Cooperative, Inc. The community solar system will be sited on Santa Rosa Tribal lands in Riverside County, an area designated as a low-income community, and will benefit approximately 38 homes on tribal land and 150-250 other low-income households served by Anza Electric. The project is expected to produce more than 42,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy over the next 30 years and provide up to $5.4 million in savings to participants over the life of the project.

“The Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians is proud to partner with Anza Electric Cooperative and GRID Alternatives to provide clean energy to not only Tribal Members, but also other surrounding mountain community members,” said Tribal Chairman, Steven Estrada. “We are thankful for the opportunity to facilitate this project by using our tribal lands in a sustainable way.”

GRID Alternatives Bay Area was awarded $2.38 million to install a 989 kW solar array in partnership with the City of Richmond. The community solar system will be sited at the Port of Richmond and demonstrates how solar can play a key role in decarbonizing California’s ports. The project will benefit 155 low-income households in designated disadvantaged communities in Richmond. Approximately 80 to 95 percent of subscribers are anticipated to be residents of affordable housing properties near the Port of Richmond that are not good candidates for rooftop solar; and who will receive direct financial benefits equal to approximately 75 percent of typical renter electricity costs. The remaining 5 to 20 percent of subscribers will be local renters and homeowners that are not able to benefit from existing low-income solar programs. The community solar project is expected to generate approximately $81,000 per year in revenue over 20 years for distribution to local low-income households.

“This is a perfect example of how cities can leverage land use authority and community choice energy programs to spur local clean energy development,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. “There is a rich history of shipbuilding and manufacturing at the Port of Richmond during the WWII era, now we’re using that same innovative spirit to build renewable energy systems that offset residents’ energy costs.”

Each community solar project will provide solar installation training and meet specific local hiring and wage requirements. For the Santa Rosa project, residents from the Santa Rosa Band will participate in paid job training opportunities during the solar installation. Both projects are estimated to be completed by the first quarter of 2021.

— Solar Builder magazine

Duke Energy trying out new solar energy program tailored to businesses, schools, nonprofits in Indiana

Duke Energy

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved a Duke Energy solar energy pilot program aimed at businesses, schools and nonprofits.

“This program gives our business and nonprofit customers, including schools and local governments, another option to incorporate clean, renewable energy into their energy mix through a cost-effective leasing arrangement,” said Stan Pinegar, Duke Energy state president for Indiana.

Details

Structured like a community solar program, eligible customers lease a solar energy facility from Duke Energy for a period of up to 20 years, while Duke Energy installs, operates, owns and maintains the facility. Customers would receive all of the kilowatt-hour output of the solar energy equipment through a net-metering arrangement. It gives customers the advantages for solar power with minimal upfront costs and no maintenance fees.

Initial capacity is limited to a total of 10 megawatts for eligible customers within the Duke Energy Indiana service territory. All costs associated with the voluntary program will be borne by participating customers only, so that non-participating customers are not impacted.

More Indiana projects

This program joins the company’s other efforts to promote clean, renewable solar power, including building and operating a 17-megawatt (MW) solar plant at a southern Indiana naval base and purchasing up to 20 MW of solar power from four solar sites that generate up to 5 MW each.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

In addition, Duke Energy is investing in battery storage technology in Indiana in the town of Nabb and at Camp Atterbury. The company is also funding $1.5 million in research at the Battery Innovation Center at the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center to study how battery storage can maximize renewable power sources.

Other renewable programs include the company’s GoGreen Indiana program, which gives customers the ability to support the development of green power sources. Customers can purchase a minimum of two 100-kilowatt-hour (kWh) blocks of green power for $1.80 per month. The 200-kWh commitment equates to about 20 percent of an average residential customer’s energy use and helps to avoid 4,800 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Not a baaaad idea: Nexamp deploys 150 sheep to graze on New York community solar project

Nexamp Newfield Sheep 1

Community solar provider Nexamp kicked off a new solar grazing program recently with the deployment of approximately 150 sheep on its solar farm in Newfield, NY. The sheep, provided by a local sheep farmer, will be used to provide sustainable vegetation management at the site throughout the growing season. Solar grazing provides a variety of important benefits to the sheep farmer, the sheep, the community and the solar farm developer.

“Subscribers get involved with our community solar program for two reasons—they save money on their electricity costs and they support the growth of clean, renewable energy in their local community,” said Zaid Ashai, Nexamp CEO. “Because sustainability is such a key part of our DNA as a community solar provider, the ability to further reduce carbon emissions with solar grazing is very appealing. We no longer have gas-powered equipment running on the site and we are able to provide a steady stream of income to the sheep farmers while the sheep enjoy a safe, healthy environment in which to graze.”

More sheep are being placed at the 30-acre Newfield site as the season progresses. Nexamp also is implementing solar grazing with more than 40 sheep already at its site in Seneca, NY and soon will be starting the program at its Upton, MA location. With dozens of projects across the Northeast, solar grazing is poised to play a significant role in Nexamp’s plan for site maintenance in the future.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

Upstate New York sheep farmers Lexie Hain and Lewis Fox of Agrivoltaic Solutions are providing sheep for the two Nexamp sites. More importantly, the two have teamed up to co-found the American Solar Grazing Association, a group that will offer valuable resources and guidance to sheep farmers while serving as a connection point for members and solar developers across the country. According to Hain, “Sheep are very efficient eaters and are really well suited to this kind of application. They will eat almost anything that grows, maintaining an ideal vegetation height to prevent shading on solar panels. Existing perimeter fences at the solar farms protect them from predators, and the panels themselves provide shelter from rain, wind and direct sun on hot days. It’s a fantastic opportunity for sheep farmers to generate extra income in a mutually beneficial environment.”

Nexamp’s community solar farms produce clean power at a large scale that is fed to the local grid, generating credits that are allocated to subscribers and used to offset their monthly charges, resulting in savings of approximately 10%. By enrolling in the program at no cost, subscribers also play a role in advancing clean energy. Many consumers would like to participate in the growing solar market but are unable to do so because they may not have the right location, an adequate roof, resources to invest in a rooftop system or may not own the home in which they live. Community solar makes it possible for anyone to benefit from solar.

Solar grazing takes community solar to the next level by extending the benefits of the program beyond subscribers to farmers and their sheep.

“Putting a flock out on a solar farm means I can preserve my own pasture and stock hay for the winter months, lowering my overall costs at the same time that I am adding revenue from the solar developer,” stated Fox. “Working with Nexamp has been a good experience for us—we are all learning and building a strong program that will scale nicely in the future. Agrivoltaics is making it easier to maximize land for both clean energy production and agriculture. It’s a win-win.”

Nexamp will continue to expand the solar grazing program throughout 2019, developing agreements with local farmers in other communities to meet vegetation management needs in a sustainable approach with sheep.

— Solar Builder magazine

Not a baaaad idea: Nexamp deploys 150 sheep to graze on New York community solar project

Nexamp Newfield Sheep 1

Community solar provider Nexamp kicked off a new solar grazing program recently with the deployment of approximately 150 sheep on its solar farm in Newfield, NY. The sheep, provided by a local sheep farmer, will be used to provide sustainable vegetation management at the site throughout the growing season. Solar grazing provides a variety of important benefits to the sheep farmer, the sheep, the community and the solar farm developer.

“Subscribers get involved with our community solar program for two reasons—they save money on their electricity costs and they support the growth of clean, renewable energy in their local community,” said Zaid Ashai, Nexamp CEO. “Because sustainability is such a key part of our DNA as a community solar provider, the ability to further reduce carbon emissions with solar grazing is very appealing. We no longer have gas-powered equipment running on the site and we are able to provide a steady stream of income to the sheep farmers while the sheep enjoy a safe, healthy environment in which to graze.”

More sheep are being placed at the 30-acre Newfield site as the season progresses. Nexamp also is implementing solar grazing with more than 40 sheep already at its site in Seneca, NY and soon will be starting the program at its Upton, MA location. With dozens of projects across the Northeast, solar grazing is poised to play a significant role in Nexamp’s plan for site maintenance in the future.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

Upstate New York sheep farmers Lexie Hain and Lewis Fox of Agrivoltaic Solutions are providing sheep for the two Nexamp sites. More importantly, the two have teamed up to co-found the American Solar Grazing Association, a group that will offer valuable resources and guidance to sheep farmers while serving as a connection point for members and solar developers across the country. According to Hain, “Sheep are very efficient eaters and are really well suited to this kind of application. They will eat almost anything that grows, maintaining an ideal vegetation height to prevent shading on solar panels. Existing perimeter fences at the solar farms protect them from predators, and the panels themselves provide shelter from rain, wind and direct sun on hot days. It’s a fantastic opportunity for sheep farmers to generate extra income in a mutually beneficial environment.”

Nexamp’s community solar farms produce clean power at a large scale that is fed to the local grid, generating credits that are allocated to subscribers and used to offset their monthly charges, resulting in savings of approximately 10%. By enrolling in the program at no cost, subscribers also play a role in advancing clean energy. Many consumers would like to participate in the growing solar market but are unable to do so because they may not have the right location, an adequate roof, resources to invest in a rooftop system or may not own the home in which they live. Community solar makes it possible for anyone to benefit from solar.

Solar grazing takes community solar to the next level by extending the benefits of the program beyond subscribers to farmers and their sheep.

“Putting a flock out on a solar farm means I can preserve my own pasture and stock hay for the winter months, lowering my overall costs at the same time that I am adding revenue from the solar developer,” stated Fox. “Working with Nexamp has been a good experience for us—we are all learning and building a strong program that will scale nicely in the future. Agrivoltaics is making it easier to maximize land for both clean energy production and agriculture. It’s a win-win.”

Nexamp will continue to expand the solar grazing program throughout 2019, developing agreements with local farmers in other communities to meet vegetation management needs in a sustainable approach with sheep.

— Solar Builder magazine

Colorado governor to sign seven clean energy bills, including big community solar expansion

colorado community solar

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is set to sign seven new clean-energy focused bills into law tomorrow (May 30, 2019), with HB-1003, the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act, being the key piece of legislation. HB-1003 removes arbitrary restrictions on the size and location of community solar gardens, expanding community solar access to rural counties and improving the economies of scale for constructing a community solar garden. Colorado was the first state in the nation to enact community solar legislation in 2011.

The popularity of community solar – as evidenced by long waitlists for capacity in existing gardens; by 20 other states adopting community solar legislation; by the increasing pool of bidders to win community solar capacity in Colorado; by more than 500 megawatts of applications in Minnesota, where community solar capacity is uncapped – has even forced Xcel Energy, the largest utility in Colorado and Minnesota, to be the nation’s first major utility to adopt a policy to be 100% carbon-free by 2050.

Community solar impact

Colorado has set its energy goals sky high – 100% renewable energy by 2040 – and community solar is the one approach that broadens access to solar energy while preserving customer choice. Approximately 75% of Colorado homes are not suitable for rooftop solar, and that percentage shrinks when assessed for low- to moderate-income households, which makes this new legislation a real victory for underserved populations who cannot or don’t want to put solar panels on their roofs, or make an upfront investment to produce their own clean energy.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

The passing of this legislation was a personal crusade for SunShare’s CEO, David Amster-Olszewski, who helped convinced all stakeholders – from citizens, to elected representatives, to business interests in other industries – that community solar is the path forward to growth of the solar industry and clean, renewable energy.

While Amster-Olszewski spearheaded the effort, he also relied on support from leaders at industry groups like the Mike Kruger, CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, and other community solar developers.

“Community solar represents the best new model for consumer participation in renewable energy sweeping the nation, originating first in Colorado a few years ago and followed by over 18 states. Today’s signing of the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act, and the expansion of the program, is a huge win for the state of Colorado as well as the states that follow, and represents the vibrance of Colorado’s clean energy economy. By engaging consumers, community solar will be an instrumental part of Colorado’s clean energy goals, and re-asserts Colorado as a nationwide leader in renewable energy on its goal to reach 100% renewable by – or before – 2040,” commented David Amster-Olszewski, CEO of SunShare.

All of the energy bills to signed on Thursday include:

• HB 1003, Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act, driven by David Amster-Olszewski, CEO of SunShare
• HB 1261, Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution
• HB 1231, New Appliance Energy and Water Efficiency Standards
• HB 1250, Building Energy Codes
• HB 1272, Housing Authority Property in Colorado New Energy Improvement District
• SB 236, Public Utilities Commission Reauthorization
• SB 96, Collect Long-term Climate Change Data

— Solar Builder magazine