- Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC), one of the largest U.S. electric cooperatives, has contracted with Renewable Energy Systems subsidiary RES Distributed to build up to 15 MW of distributed community solar installations, PV Magazine reports.
- The contractor will provide engineering, procurement, and construction services for 15 arrays of 998 kW each at sites owned by cooperative members. PEC will purchase the solar output through power purchase agreements and resell it to individual residential and business customer-members.
- PEC serves the West Texas region around Austin and has approximately 200,000 members. In 2015, 900 member-customers had rooftop solar. The community arrays will allow those who can’t or don’t want to have panels on their homes or businesses access solar energy.
U.S. member-owned electric cooperatives serve about 42 million consumers, or about 12% of the total customer base. Even so, they administer 69% of the nation's community solar programs, according to a recent report from Deloitte.
Being smaller, less bureaucratic organizations, they reacted faster than their investor-owned counterparts to the emerging shared renewables market opportunity over the past few years, according to the report.
Co-op projects tend to be smaller than those from IOUs or munis, at around 350 kW. But they are growing, and the average size of planned projects is 747 kW. Each one of PEC's 15 arrays would be larger than that, clocking in at nearly a MW.
The growth ceiling for community solar programs appears to be quite high. According to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 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,” NREL estimated.