The NH Community Supported Solar (NHCSS) Guide explains a dynamic segment of the solar industry. It provides options, guidance, insights and support for those looking to initiate their own locally-owned community solar project.
The community-owned solar electric (PV) project on the roof of the Monadnock Food Co-Op in Keene provides the basis for the Guide. This 43 kW CSS system not only provides over 40 MW hours per year of clean, sustainable power from solar energy but also jobs, tax, and investment dollars are kept within the local community.
Based on the experience gained through this experience, the NHCSS Guide was published to provide a resource on the range of Community Solar options and insights to pursue a locally-owned renewable energy system on non-profit entities, municipal properties, for low & moderate-income folks and for group net metering in your community.
Community solar (CS) is a photovoltaic (PV) also referred to as a solar electric system that provides power and other benefits to community members. CS is emerging across the United States, spearheaded by people seeking local alternatives to conventional energy sources; as a hedge against rising energy costs; to reduce carbon emissions, and provide energy resiliency.
There are many approaches to Community Solar, most are turnkey PV systems owned and managed by private developers and utilities as discussed on page 10 of the NH CSS Guide. Local citizen-led initiatives require the dedication of community members to initiate, organize and execute a project, but profits and control are retained within the community.
If your group wants to keep the benefits of the solar project local and are willing to put in the extra work to do this, this is intended to help you explore how to start your CSS project which has three main elements:
- The host is the owner of the property on which the PV system is located, which may be a public (such as a municipality) or private entity. The host customer is named on the utility account as the party responsible for paying the electric bills and applies for the net metering services with the PUC and the utility company.
- The champions make each CSS project happen. The project needs a volunteer team who want to see the host get a CSS system. They need an entrepreneurial spirit since they will be setting up a small business to own and operate the PV system with the intent to sell the system to the host. A champion doesn’t have to be investor owner though an investor should become part of the project steering committee (SC).
- The investors are local folks who meet the criteria of being accredited investors with passive income who want to put their money to work locally. They will form an LLC to own the project, sell electricity and eventually the PV system to the host.
Resources from Monadnock Sustainability Network:
The Monadnock Sustainability Network is not actively engaged in supporting the community solar process; but offers the complete NH CSS guide and crucially many turn-key legal and financial forms that have been developed to aid the hosts, champions, and investors through the community supported solar process.
The NHCSS Guide is available to members of the Monadnock Sustainability Network (MSN), a 501(c)3 nonprofit. For those who decide to pursue locally-owned CSS, there is a menu of support and legal documents (explained in the guide) including: LLC agreement (23 pages); tax equity and community funding memorandum and agreements; Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) (26 pages); Request For Proposal (RFP) (14 pages); Engineering, Procurement and Contract (22 pages) as well as cash flow and return on investment spreadsheets, community/investor presentations and other information. Consulting services are also described.
We strongly recommend that you seek professional legal, financial and engineering advice prior to initiating a community solar energy project. This guide and related tools are not intended to provide legal, accounting, financial, tax or other advice. The projections used in this document are based on various assumptions and are only representative of possible investment scenarios.