Webinar describes utility trends in adopting community solar programs

SEPAWAPAFeb. 4, 2015
2 p.m. MST

Western Area Power Administration and the Solar Electric Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SEPA) are teaming up to present a webinar that explores the utility’s role in the community solar market segment on Feb. 4, 2015, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

The community solar model offers utilities an innovative way to engage with customers who want to invest in renewable energy but, for a variety of rea­sons, may not be able to install rooftop arrays. Community solar programs offer utility customers the opportunity to buy “shares” in a centralized project, often called a solar farm or solar garden. Utilities around the nation are using these programs to meet growing consumer interest in supporting renewable energy.

SEPA has been tracking the spread of these proj­ects across the United States since early 2012. With nearly 60 active programs, utilities represent 87 percent of all com­munity solar programs now online.

Utility Trends in Adopting Community Solar Models You are leaving WAPA.gov. will open with Becky Campbell, SEPA Senior Manager of Research and Advisory Services, defining community solar and explaining why some utilities see it as a valuable customer engagement tool. Using case studies of actual utility programs to support the discussion, she will highlight nationwide utility trends in program adoption.

Presentations will cover additional data, including actual participation statistics that SEPA collected through a 2014 survey of utility program administrators. Atttendees will also learn about design characteristics common to some of the nation’s most successful community solar programs.

Randy Manion, manager of Western’s Renewable Resource Program, is urging Western customers to attend the webinar to learn more about this strategy for adding solar power to utility resource portfolios. “Several of our customers have already launched community solar programs, including Colorado Springs Utilities, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative,” he noted. “Their members have been enthusiastic, and many projects are fully subscribed before construction is complete.”

There is no cost to attend the webinar, but registration is required.

Solar Technical Brief Examines Utility Cross-Functional Coordination

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have released Community Solar Program Design: Working Within the Utility. This is the latest in the series of quarterly bulletins and briefs focusing on utility solar business models from the SEPA and EPRI partnership.

This brief focuses on community solar programs, a type of business model that requires innovative approaches and cross-functional coordination. From the point of view of the community solar design person or team within a utility, this brief explores topics including:

  • The inter-departmental strategic needs that should be addressed in the development of a community solar program
  • Strategic and design questions the community solar design team may need to answer, and how feedback from other stakeholders may help 
  • Two case studies on community solar programs at Seattle City Light and Tucson Electric Power, including lessons learned during the development process

Visitors may login and download the report.  SEPA is happy to answer your comments and questions about any of this bulletin’s featured research and events. Please contact Bianca Barth at 202-379-1615.

Source: Solar Electric Power Association, 2/15/12