The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office published a summary of lessons learned during a series of National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) virtual convenings in 2021 that brought together state representatives to explore barriers and opportunities for accelerating community solar deployment. The report includes a summary of key challenges, opportunities, and potential needs and resources that states identified to support equitable community solar development. The findings from these convenings are guiding current NCSP support to state governments.

Download the Summary

 

Identified Barriers

Possible Solutions

State Policy and Regulatory Environments
  • Lack of enabling legislation for community solar
  • Other state policies that stop or slow community solar deployment, such as limits to net metering and access to third party ownership
  • Need for policies with strong consumer protection that do not create onerous reporting requirements, particularly for projects that serve low- to moderate-income (LMI) households
  • Adopt state policies that increase community solar market access for communities or municipalities
  • Streamline processes and requirements to verify income for subscribers from LMI households, such as through existing utility and bill assistance programs (e.g., LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)), environmental justice community designations, or incomequalified census tracts.
  • Provide peer networking, data, case studies, tools, and pilot projects to help states develop programs that enable meaningful benefits of community solar, including:
    • Community ownership
    • Energy storage and grid resilience
    • LMI household access and energy burden reduction
    • Workforce development
  • Provide technical assistance to help states without enabling legislation develop alternative community solar models
Access to Project Capital
  • Higher marginal costs for smaller projects
  • Perceived risk for projects that serve LMI households, leading to costly debt for developers and impacting financial feasibility
  • Inability of state and/or local government and nonprofits to directly monetize the solar Investment Tax Credits
  • Lack of access to pre-development capital
  • Include financial incentives in program design to include enrollment of LMI households and increase financial viability of projects serving LMI households
  • Include carveouts for LMI households in program design to further incentivize their inclusion among project subscribers
  • Guarantee funds to de-risk projects serving LMI households
  • Provide funding that helps community-based or small developers cover pre-development costs
  • Pair solar with storage to increase resiliency and allow for larger installations in certain markets
Subscriber Outreach and Acquisition
  • Limited awareness and understanding of community solar among residents
  • No central repository for community solar projects with available subscriptions
  • Customer skepticism, especially in historically excluded and under-resourced communities
  • Limited consumer protections for community solar subscribers
  • Additional customer and developer burdens for verifying LMI eligibility
  • Develop standardized language and educational material about community solar to improve awareness and understanding
  • Develop flexible community engagement toolkits, in multiple languages, to support states’ outreach efforts
  • Develop a customer-facing database with project availability information to help households enroll in community solar
  • Use inter-agency collaboration to improve reach to consumers and leverage credibility and trust of agencies
  • Streamline LMI verification by defining eligibility by census tract or other state benefit programs
  • Create a centralized LMI verification tool to streamline enrollment
  • Use peer networking to share best practices in leveraging community organizations or other state agencies to deliver information about community solar
  • Bundle low-income energy assistance resources with other low-income assistance resources such as food, transportation, or childcare
  • Improve consumer protections and protect customer privacy through developer certifications or central repositories
Project Siting and Interconnection
  • Outsized interconnection costs for small projects
  • Bottlenecks in interconnection approval process
  • Difficulty siting projects to balance demand, ease of interconnection, incentives, and environmental justice concerns
  • Competing interest in land use between solar development and agriculture
  • Public resistance to development
  • Build microgrids that include community solar and storage to provide opportunities for community ownership, access, and resilience
  • Support project siting and design with modeling tools
  • Provide technical assistance to help developers (especially community-based organizations or small developers) navigate complex siting, development, and interconnection requirements