- Stearns Electric Association introduced its first community shared solar for cooperative members. Of the array’s 50 modules of 410 W each expected to go online in June, 14 have been subscribed.
- A member can buy up to five of the $1,300 modules under a 20 year power purchase agreement. The price includes distribution system costs. The return is estimated at $5 per month per panel, as a bill credit. Non-solar owning members of the Minnesota cooperative will see no cost shift or rate increase.
- The costs and benefits are competitive with rooftop solar but this solar is available whether or not the member has a suitable roof. There are also no ownership burdens because Stearns Electric is the array's owner and remains responsible for its operations and maintenance.
A key assumption in the solar value proposition is that the price of electricity rises but the cost of solar is fixed over the 20 year contract term. For subscribers to Stearns’ community shared solar, the $5 per module bill credit would increase if electricity prices increase.
There are currently over 58 community shared solar arrays in 22 states and it is the “biggest trend” for solar at utilities, according to Senior Research Manager Becky Campbell, co-author of a recent Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) report on the topic.
New data in the DOE’s Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation shows an estimated 49% of households and 48% of businesses are unable to host solar.
“By opening the market to these customers,” it reports, “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.”