Community solar is a phrase that has been popping up in lots of places around the country. Essentially, community solar allows consumers who can’t put solar on their roof for some reason (too much shade, they rent, local homeowner associations are too restrictive) to buy into a larger system and see the energy benefits on their electric bill, just as if they had the solar panels on their roof.
In February 2016, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that created a policy framework for community solar in Oregon. The policy allows for a lot of flexibility to create a variety of projects that would be available for consumers. The Oregon Public Utility Commission is currently writing the rules for a community solar program for the private utilities (Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power). Those rules will be finished by July 2017 and the first community solar projects will come online either in late 2017 or early 2018.
If you are a customer of a consumer-owned utility, those utilities can do whatever they want. You can approach your elected board to discuss community solar opportunities.
Community solar could allow many Oregonians who want to go solar now but can’t an opportunity to do just that. It’s really exciting. It will be important for Solar Oregon to help consumers understand what community solar means and how to participate as the program is developed. So you’ll be seeing a lot more about it. If you want to follow the community solar issue at the Oregon Public Utility Commission, you can contact the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association or NWSEED.