Shared renewable energy projects allow a group of people invest in a community project and share in the benefits of a local renewable energy project.
When energy is supplied strictly from solar energy, it is sometimes called “community solar” or “share solar.” The shared renewables project pools investments from multiple members of a community and provides energy and financial benefits in return.
Shared renewables projects are often located on public or jointly-owned property, and can be an easier way for renters and condominium owners, and homes/businesses without adequate solar access can benefit from a local solar energy project.
There are many reasons why shared renewable energy for a home or business may be preferred:
- Those who are only renting may be prohibited from installing solar on the property
- The roof may be too shaded or needs re-roofing
- The size or orientation of the roof may be improper
- Some commercial buildings have equipment on the roof, obstructing an installation
There are various shared renewable energy models. Here are three common models:
- Utility-Sponsored Model: Some utilities provide their customers with the option to purchase renewable energy from a shared facility. The customer may purchase a set amount of electricity at a fixed rate for a long term, such as 20 years. The rate, while typically is slightly higher that the current retail rate, may provide protection and stability against rising rates for grid electricity.
- On-bill Crediting: One shared renewable energy model involves allowing residents and business to invest in a portion of a shared renewable project, and receive a credit for that portion of the energy production from the facility on their utility bill.
- Non-Profit “Buy a Brick” Model: In this model, donors contribute to a shared renewables installation owned by a charitable non-profit organization.
Community Solar in Oregon: The Oregon Clean Power Cooperative
Oregon has historically had a hard time attracting investment for solar projects for governments, non-profits and other community groups. Most private investors in the renewable energy arena preferred to put their money into solar projects in California or the East Coast, where energy prices are significantly higher than in the Northwest.
Those few groups in Oregon who tried to come together to finance their own community solar projects found themselves hamstrung by securities requirements. Writing and filing the financial prospectus required to attract investors was complicated and expensive, a burden which sunk most community-scale solar projects.
In 2014, Oregonians for Renewable Energy Progress (OREP) approached Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) about introducing a community solar bill in the Oregon legislature. The result, SB1520, neatly solved the problem by allowing Oregonians to come together in cooperatives to finance renewable energy projects in their communities, without having to file a complex financial prospectus. Oregon law already exempted certain cooperatives — agriculture, fisheries and coops of mobile home park residents — from securities registration. SB 1520 simply extended that exemption to the category of renewable energy cooperatives.
On May 6, 2015, the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative was incorporated. As a non-profit, the group seeks investors and plans to develop 10-20 projects in its first year. In order to qualify as a cooperative with a shared interest among participants, the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative has designated membership in Solar Oregon as a prerequisite for investing in these programs.
To learn more about the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative and getting started with community solar in Oregon, visit: oregoncleanpower.coop.