Construction begins on the first community solar project in New York State

According to the report recently released by Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions, to date, 77 U.S. utilities administer 111 community solar projects across 26 states, accounting for a combined capacity of about 106 MW. The PV installation for the shared solar project in Halfmoon, NY will generate 741,230 kWh of electricity annually, enough to power 103 average-sized homes in New York State.

The project is developed by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), New York State Department of Public Service (DPS), EnterSolar and Clean Energy Collective (CEC). The PV facility in Halfmoon will feed solar energy to the grid operated by New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG). More than 100 residential customers in NYSEG’s Capital Region territory, which includes parts of Columbia, Essex, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Washington counties, will be able to participate in local clean power generation and save money on their electricity bills.

Under the State’s Shared Renewables Program, residents can purchase individual solar panels in the Halfmoon array and receive credit for the power production directly on their monthly electric bills, as if the panels were located on their own roof.

"This first-in-the-State shared renewables solar project advances <…> energy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure New Yorkers have access to clean, affordable, locally produced power,“ President and CEO of NYSERDA John B. Rhodes said at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.

The Halfmoon project, which will feature a solar array of more than 1,700 panels, is expected to be completed by late summer. The PV installation will offset 210 tons of CO2 equivalents annually, which is comparable to taking 44 cars off the road.

The first in the New York States community solar project will be specifically targeting renters, homeowners and low-income residents. Each year, 10 kW of the capacity will be assigned to five low-income families.

"Helping low-income families save money on their electric bills while supporting local clean energy is a new and valuable tool in our mission to strengthen neighborhoods and help residents achieve financial independence,“ said Susan Cotner, Executive Director of Affordable Housing Partnership.

The project is funded through US$1 billion NY- Sun initiative established by the governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The program is designed to build a self-sustaining solar industry in New York and help achieve strategic energy goals, which require 50% of State’s electricity to be generated by renewables by 2030.

More solar to share

In its recently released report "Community Solar and Virtual Net Metering", Navigant Research group predicts that the total installed capacity for community solar programs in the United States might reach 1.5 GW in 2020, representing a $2.5 billion market. Deloitte Center’s report on community solar seems to support Navigant’s forecast. It demonstrates that, since 2010, the upfront cost of community solar participation has declined 43% from an average of US$5.13 per watt to US$2.92 per watt in 2015. Another research by Greentech Media estimates that the average price of a residential rooftop solar installation in the U.S. in 2015 was US$3.53 per watt.

According to Deloitte Center, shared solar is likely to grow its market share fast in the coming years. This growth will be stimulated not only by the declining technology prices, but also by the strong consumer demand for renewable energy. The annual Deloitte Resources Study demonstrates that 64% of U.S. consumers today rank “increasing the use of solar power” among the top three energy-related issues most important to them.

First shared solar array in the US came online in 2006 in Ellensburg, Washington. It cost more than US$1 million for a 109 kW system. The local residents, who originally joined the program, had to pay a retail rate seven times what they previously paid for the electricity. But when given the option, despite high rates, they chose to purchase their electricity from a solar resource.