Kate Galbraith over at the NYT’s Green Inc. has an interesting post about community solar and how it’s beginning to take hold in certain U.S. communities, including St. George, Utah, Falmouth, Massachusetts, and Sacramento, California, where the local utility there runs a program called “Solar Shares” that allows people to buy into PV projects without having to buy the PV. A similar initiative is in the works in Tucson, Arizona. Fact is, not everybody owns a home or has a home where the roof is ideal for installing PV. This excludes a large part of the population, like renters, from incentive programs that try to encourage residential uptake of solar PV.
In Ontario, a group called Countryside Energy Co-Op is among a number of community co-ops that have emerged to take advantage of the province’s new feed-in-tariff program. Countryside, a co-op serving southwestern Ontario, seeks out commercial building owners who are willing to lease out their rooftop space for a large PV project. It will then oversee construction of the project and ultimately own and collect feed-in-tariff revenues on behalf of members, which get an annual dividend over 20 years based on the number of shares they own. The program is ideal for “People with unsuitable locations (for example shading due to trees, buildings, etc. which significantly lowers electrical output and therefore revenue) but who want PV can become members of Countryside Energy and invest through Preference Shares, their capital contributing to develop Co-op PV projects on large buildings,” according to a recent press release from the co-op. “As the electricity generated will be connected to the grid, Co-op members will generate and use their own virtual electricity.”
Countryside has partnered with ARISE Technologies Corp., a PV manufacturer and installer based in Waterloo, Ontario. Other co-op style initiatives might just focus on a single projects for a community. For example, the Unitarian Universalist Congregration in Toronto has registered as a co-op and is selling shares within its community to fund a single project that will see PV installed on its church rooftop. The purchase of shares has been strong, showing that there is interest in this kind of model.
It’s nice to see. I can see similar initiatives popping up across the province around schools and community centres.