The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership tracks progress toward the goal of expanding access to affordable community solar to every American household. One of the ways this is accomplished is by gathering and analyzing community solar project data in three categories:
- Access to community solar projects by state, looking at where they are installed and how much capacity exists;
- Affordability of community solar subscriptions for residential subscribers; and
- Progress states are making on including low-income access in their community solar programs.
This community solar market tracking effort, called Sharing the Sun, is conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). You can access to the complete project dataset and associated presentations and fact sheets on the Community Solar Resources webpage and on NREL’s Community Solar webpage.
Access to Community Solar Projects
As of December 2020, community solar projects are located in 39 states, plus Washington, D.C. Nearly three quarters of the total market is concentrated in four states: Minnesota (789 megawatts alternating current (MW-AC)), Florida (593 MW-AC), Massachusetts (555 MW-AC), and New York (415 MW-AC).
Savings from Community Solar Projects
The Department of Energy examines the affordability of community solar through the net present value (NPV) of a residential subscription, which measures the difference between the credits received and payments that subscribers make over time. A positive NPV means subscribers are saving money over the life of their subscription, as compared to not subscribing. The median project-level NPV is about +$0.19 per watt (W) as of December 2020 (sensitivity range: +$0.16/W to +$0.25/W). About 76% (sensitivity range: 75-79%) of projects yield a positive NPV, meaning most projects result in positive net benefits to the customers over the course of the subscription. Learn more about the methodology.
Efforts Targeted at Low-Income Access to Community Solar
As of March 2021, 21 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation that enables or requires community solar. Of that group, 17 have created provisions to address low-income participation in community solar. State government incentives provide additional funding for projects that subscribe low-income customers; some states have mandates called carve-outs that require a certain percentage of a community solar project or program to be subscribed by low-income subscribers or low-income serving organizations.