Aside from the main PV segments we saw at the beginning of this section, where solar power has mostly been available to utilities as utility scale solar plants or to individual home and business owners as rooftop systems for both residential and non-residential sectors, there is a new stream that supports the development of shared solar in communities where homeowners, who are interested in solar but cannot afford it or don’t have space on the roof for PV installation, can share solar with their neighbors and communities to allow everyone to be part of the solar movement.
Shared solar usually consists of a small-scale (few hundreds of kW to few thousands of kW) solar installation that allows multiple individuals to divide their generated power and that allows customers to share ownership of a community-scale PV array, subscribe to the power output of such an array, or both. Of course, there is limitation to subscription systems because electricity markets are regulated in some places.
According to National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), statistics show that potential for shared solar is growing rapidly and is expected to double the current capacity by 2020. Currently there is only few MW of cumulative shared solar installation capacity in the US.
As for all other PV types, policies and incentive programs are main market drivers for shared solar.
Market Status (source: NREL page for community solar)
As of December 2020:
- Community solar projects are located in 39 states, plus Washington, D.C.
- 22 states, plus Washington, D.C., have policies that support community solar.
- Community solar projects represent 3,005 megawatts alternating-current (MW-AC) of total installed capacity.
- About 74% of the total market is concentrated in the top four states: Minnesota (663 MW-AC), Florida (593 MW-AC), Massachusetts (555 MW-AC), and New York (410 MW-AC).
One of the biggest contributors to the four non-residential solar sectors is the rapid rise of community solar installations. This has boosted the non-residential segment in 2016 and 2017, illustrated by increasing numbers of both off-site and rooftop corporate such as Wal-mart, Apple, Target and Amazon.
For more information about shared solar, please refer to the following recommending readings: