The sun may not be shining any brighter but we keep harvesting more from it. In 2013, the U.S. installed 140,000 more Photovoltaic (PV) systems valued at $13.7 billion. Solar accounted for 29% of all new electricity generation capacity in 2013, up from 10% in 2012. This made solar the second-largest source of new generating capacity behind natural gas. More solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last eighteen months than in the previous 30 years and we’re only the third largest market for PV.
Sure there are lots of good reasons for deciding to go solar but many large and small businesses, homeowners and utilities see it as a sound investment. While New Hampshire was ranked 30th in PV installed last year, well behind some neighboring states, there is at least one new solar development to keep an eye on locally. Community Solar (CS) is emerging across the United States spearheaded by people seeking local alternatives to conventional energy sources; a hedge against rising energy costs; reduced carbon emissions; and energy resiliency. Community Solar is a PV, solar electric, system that provides power and other benefits to community members. The Monadnock Sustainability Network (MSN), a non-profit, is working with local citizens and stakeholders to establish the first Monadnock Community Solar initiative (MCSi) project here in our region. We have developed a plan based on a collaborative project with Antioch University NE and the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund (NEGEF) awarded MSN a small grant to support some start up expenses.
A group of local citizens has formed a steering committee working to build the first locally owned community solar project. The steering committee has decided to pursue the LLC model where local individuals form a business that owns the PV system and sells clean, local solar electricity to a host at a fixed price for a 20 year +/- period. The committee has identified legal needs and is meeting with attorneys to provide our project’s legal documents. We have surveyed several sites and are in the process of finalizing the host site for the first MCSi project. The host will pay the solar LLC a fixed rate for the solar power reducing its exposure to rising electricity prices and it will have the option to purchase the PV system at a nominal cost. We hope to announce the location of the first MCSi site soon.
Community owned solar here in the Monadnock region will provide power from local solar energy, allow a number of folks to participate, create local jobs, optimize project siting and increase public understanding of solar energy while strengthening our community.
There are two opportunities to participate in MCSi. The first involves joining the steering committee to guide the first CS system in our region and possibly the state. The second will involve investing in the actual solar system. The first project is taking shape; information will be shared as it becomes available. Stay tuned as the first MCSi project site is announced. Will it be a location near you? To learn more about this exciting opportunity please visit greenmonadnock.org or contact John Kondos at email@example.com
John Kondos is a founder of Home-Efficiency Resources, Solar Source, a division of the Melanson Co. and the Monadnock Sustainability Network, whose mission is to promote credible, sustainable practices in the region.