- Indiana’s NineStar Connect, a non-profit utility cooperative that provides electricity and communications services, is offering the opportunity to lease portions of a 230-module community solar array to its 14,000 customers. They will be able to pay $1,250 per module for a 20-year lease.
- The cooperative’s solar pilot will save only an estimated $5-$6 a month, so it will take 16 years to 17 years to pay off the module’s cost. Even so, the co-op says the rising cost of Indiana electricity, which went from $0.077/kWh in 2010 to $0.105/kWh in 2016, and the falling cost of solar have stimulated interest.
- Customer-members say they are also willing to invest in solar for its environmental benefits. Those who lease modules will have the value of their output credited to their monthly bills.
NineStar will own and maintain the south-facing array. Its total installed cost is expected to be approximately $310,000 and each customer-member is projected to save about $1,600 with the 20-year lease. It the leasee moves, the bill credit can be transferred to a new address in the NineStar service area. A leasee who leaves the territory can get a partial refund.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation estimated 49% of households and 48% of businesses are currently unable to host a PV system.
“By opening the market to these customers, shared solar could represent 32% to 49% of the distributed PV market in 2020, thereby leading to cumulative PV deployment growth in 2015 to 2020 of 5.5 GW to 11.0 GW, and representing $8.2–$16.3 billion of cumulative investment," the study reported.
Community solar is expected to grow 59% annually through 2020, reaching a 2020 U.S. installed capacity of 534 MW, according to U.S. Community Solar Market Outlook 2015-2020 from GTM Research.