A 74.8 kW solar array using 272 ground-mounted solar panels in Washington state is also an investment opportunity for residents of the Vancouver, WA area. Clark Public Utilities is offering 3,264 shares in the project so local people can buy them in exchange for credits on their utility bills, which will power their power costs. It is expected that shareholders will be paid back for their share purchases in about four years. After that, they will continue to receive credits on their utility bills for the life of the solar system, which is expected to be 20 years. For the first four years, the credits would be used to pay off the cost of the system, and then for about 16 years shareholders would get reduced utility bills.
We might hear some solar news as it relates to greater affordability or more powerful solar panels, but creative financing is just as important, because it gets more solar power installations constructed and operating. It also helps overturn the misunderstanding that solar power is too expensive. It actually has never been more affordable.
Solar power has a positive return-on-investment in some cases, but we might not yet perceive that, instead considering individual stock purchases or mutual funds as proper investments.
Community solar in particular has already performed well on the financial side. A project developed by Holy Cross Energy was completed after offering a similar share-based financing model. All 338 shares sold out before construction started. A 78 kW solar array was built and shareholders own the system. They also received electricity from the clean, renewable system. It was as if they all had rooftop solar power systems, but the system was located on the ground near them. This site was a clear advantage over their rooftops because of the presence of many old cottonwood trees which could fall and damage home solar systems.
Community solar power has some other advantages. When a community chooses it, the choice is a reflection of its own values, and values are what bind individuals together. Some people live in communities in the physical sense, but don’t interact with each other much, so they don’t know each other. Community projects bring
people together with a shared purpose.
Another benefit of community solar power is that the shareholders escape the monopoly of the local utility. The community members realized they can generate their own power, and it can come from clean, renewable sources not only from fossil fuels.
Community solar is also a good educational experience, because local children can learn about clean energy by using it, instead of merely reading about it in a book or having a teacher explain it.
Image: Piyo, Wiki Commons