Community configurations of economical solar panels could be the answer to the United States’ need for alternative energy. With Germany as a role model and economic competition from China, access to solar power no longer needs to be a personal installation: “community solar” and “solar gardens” serve as an accessible clean energy source for the 75% of Americans who are considered poor candidates for sun power.
Throughout the US, communities are pooling resources to invest in shared solar panels. Americans who live in apartments, condos, or homes heavily shaded by trees would not only be able to use solar energy, but may even profit simultaneously. While the IRS tax code is not written to credit collective solar (breaks are only given to those with solar equipment physically on their property), advocates have proposed “virtual/community net metering” wherein the utility company would credit each coop member for energy produced. Most power companies oppose community solar, preferring the Clean Energy Collective in which coop members function as small power plants and sell created power to the utilities. Finding the balance between innovation and the current business model seems to be the key for further expansion.
As of March 24, 2013, corporate media have yet to cover the potential of community solar arrays.
Paul Rauber, “Solar for All,” Sierra Magazine, January/February 2013, http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201301/community-solar-rooftop-panels-292.aspx
Student Researcher: Eleanor Baney, College of Marin
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth, College of Marin