Community solar is one way to improve citizens' accessibility to solar energy. The following resources provide an overview of community solar, its benefits, and current community solar programs in Texas. The Texas Community Solar Guidelines is a resource developed by NCTCOG to aid nonprofit utilities in the development of their own community solar programs.
Community solar is the sharing of renewable solar power from a centralized source. As distributed generation and customer demand for solar grow, community solar offers an excellent opportunity for utilities to give their customers what they want while retaining control of generation in their service area. Also referred to as shared solar or solar gardens, community solar consists of a central installation that provides customers with an opportunity to opt into the solar installation and receive a proportional share of financial or energy output of the system, thereby allowing customers to realize the environmental and economic benefits of solar energy without requiring a solar installation of their own.
In this way, community solar offers a promising opportunity to extend access to solar electricity to the 85 percent of energy consumers who either do not own their homes, have roofs that are shaded or not appropriately oriented, or who have difficulty financing standalone photovoltaic systems[i].
"Community solar is a cooperative approach to solar. It enables… utilities to do what they do best:
engage with their members, provide affordable power, and maintain a safe and reliable grid"
--The National Rural Electric Cooperative, The Community Solar Playbook (2016)
Community solar is being actively pursued in Texas—by Municipally Owned Utilities, Electric Cooperatives, Investor Owned Utilities, and Retail Electric Providers proving that Texas offers a conducive environment for community solar. In fact, the number of active Texas community solar projects grew from two to five between 2015 and 2016. Many more projects are expected to come online in 2017 and beyond.
Texas is poised to further expand community solar thanks to its permissive regulatory environment, availability of financing (in part due to the extension of the Federal Investment Tax Credit), and falling solar costs.
The Texas Community Solar Guidelines for Electric Cooperatives and Municipally-Owned Utilities was developed as a high level primer for how a Texas non-profit utility can launch a community solar project. It provides a summary of community solar, its recent growth in Texas, technical resources to reference, and an overview of the major community solar decision points. This document is for Texas non-profit utilities and was informed by Texas community solar project managers.
- Control distributed generation
- Gain experience with renewables
- Improve standing in community
- Reduce transmission and distribution maintenance costs
For End Users
- Access to solar for anyone!
- Offset electricity costs and hedge against future price increases
- Zero-emission energy!
Austin Energy serves Travis and a small portion of Williamson County. Austin Energy's community solar program is currently in development but plans to be available to the community soon!
Do you live in or around San Antonio? Check out CPS Energy's Roofless Solar Program! CPS Energy serves the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and parts of Medina, Comal and Atascosa Counties.
Check out the CoServ Solar Station! CoServ Electric serves portions of Denton, Collin, Tarrant and Dallas Counties.
In 2017, El Paso Electric will begin operating its first Community Solar Program! El Paso Electric serves portions of Texas in El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson Counties and New Mexico.
Check out Mid-South Synergy's Synergy Solar Program, offering a maintenance free solution to going solar! Mid-South Synergy serves communities in Grimes and portions of Walker and Montgomery Counties.
MP2 Energy is offering farm-to-market solar energy through the LocalSun Program! The program is available to Houston-area residents.
the TXU Energy Solar Club offers a consumer the choice to have the first 500 kW of electricity each month be purchased from solar farms in Texas.
Pedernales Electric Cooperative is currently constructing 15 separate 1 MW arrays which are being developed as a cost-efficient addition to the power generation and the future of community solar for the electric cooperative. Pedernales Electric Cooperative serves communities in 24 counties in the Texas Hill Country.