Shared solar set to explode

Making new programs available to homes and businesses that currently cannot host on-site PV systems could result in a 32% to 49% share of the U.S. distributed PV market for shared solar, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Shared solar models allow consumers to jointly own or lease systems to offset electricity bills, allowing consumers to share the benefits of a single solar array.

The NREL report, Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation, examines the current U.S. shared solar landscape, analyzes how shared solar programs are regulated and estimates market potential for U.S. shared solar deployment.

At least 49% of U.S. households and 48% of businesses are currently unable to host a PV system when excluding residential renters, those without access to roof space and/or those living or working in buildings with insufficient roof space, according to NREL. The report lists several factors that may cause shared solar deployment to be significantly higher than initial estimates, including easier and less restrictive participation and economies of scale.

After accounting for the development necessary to expand the shared solar market as well as state-level policy limiting factors such as net-metering caps, NREL found that shared solar could lead to cumulative U.S. PV deployment growth of 5.5 GW to 11 GW in the next five years and represent between $8.2 and $16.3 billion of cumulative investment.

Shared solar offerings that are marketed and structured to reduce customers’ retail electricity bills are less likely to be treated as securities than those marketed and structured primarily as profit-generating programs, NREL adds.

"Historically, PV business models and regulatory environments have not been designed to expand access to a significant portion of potential PV system customers," said David Feldman, NREL energy analyst and lead author on the report. "As a result, the economic, environmental and social benefits of distributed PV have not been available to all consumers. Shared solar programs open up the market to the other half of businesses and households."