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Community systems provide an alternative path for solar growth | Work

Minneapolis (AP) — Bishop Richard Howell, Jr., walking on the roof of the church among 630 solar panels, admitted that climate change is not the most pressing concern for his predominantly black congregation.

“We have violence, shooting, murder, COVID-19,” Howell disgustedly said. “You are trying to save your family, but so far no one is actually talking about global warming.”

Nonetheless, his Shiloh Temple International Ministries in northern Minneapolis welcomed the opportunity to become one of the many “community solar” providers emerging across the United States amid rising demand for renewable energy.

It’s larger than a home rooftop system, but smaller than a working complex, so it’s on a building or on an abandoned factory site or farm. An individual or company subscribes to some of the energy transmitted to the grid and gets credit to reduce electricity bills.

This model attracts people who can’t afford to install it on the roof, such as renters and homeowners who don’t have direct sunlight, or who live in places where sunlight isn’t available.

“We support the fight against this climate war and congratulate our families at a low cost,” Howell said.

According to the report, about 1.600 community solar projects, or “gardens,” are operated nationwide. National Institute of Renewable Energy In Golden, Colorado. Most are in Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, and Colorado, but there is at least one in 41 states and Washington, DC. Florida is relatively small, but large enough to make the state a major producer.

Together, they generate about 3.4 gigawatts (enough for about 650,000 households), or about 3% of the country’s solar power.However, more than 4.3GW is expected to be online within 5 years Solar Energy Industries Association..

Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, an industry group, said:

Still, it is unclear how much community solar will play a major role in the US transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

The Biden administration continues its $ 15 million energy sector initiative launched in 2019 to support growth, especially in low- and middle-income regions. In October, the agency announced its goal of saving $ 1 billion to consumers by using community solar, which is equivalent to 5 million households by 2025.

However, electricity regulation is at the state level, and stakeholder groups are arguing over what defines the community’s sunlight and who needs to produce it.

The Solar Energy Industries Association should apply this label only if not only utilities but also private developers and non-profit cooperatives can operate solar gardens and power the grid. It states that there is. The association says 19 states and Washington, DC have such a policy.

Power companies say that having too many players can unravel the regulatory structure that guarantees reliable electrical services. They warn of disasters such as a fatal power outage in Texas last winter.

Brandon Hoffmeister, Senior Vice President of Consumers Energy, said: Michigan utilities are fighting a state bill that allows solar providers in communities other than utilities.

Others say the utility is simply ducking the competition.

“It is the free market that is actually driving the rise of community solar, which saves money and promotes a cleaner environment,” said John, Managing Director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, a trading group. Freeman said.

Growth pain

Community Solar took off in Minnesota after a request by lawmakers in 2013 Xcel Energy, The state’s largest utility for establishing programs open to other developers. With over 400 gardens (top in the US), nearly 500 applications are pending.

Married Keith Dent and Neu Coumalassie say subscribing to the Shiro Temple garden has reduced their annual billing by an average of $ 98.

“You generate your own electricity and save a little money,” said Dent, who helped set up several complexes built by the local nonprofit Cooperative Energy Futures.

Xcel, needed to buy garden electricity, says state formulas for assessing solar energy make it too expensive. Distributed costs to all utilities’ customers basically force non-subscribers to subsidize community solar, spokesman Matthew Lindstrom said.

Proponents of community solar power say Xcel’s claim ignores savings from lower distribution costs in local gardens.

Within the gardens of Cooperative Energy Futures, you’ll find 3,760 panels of parking overlooking the Twins baseball stadium and a collection of farms near Faribo, 50 miles (80 km) south of Minneapolis.

Despite conflicts about robbing six acres of production, farmer Gerald Bauer supports the cause of the climate and says community solar will be an economic winner by paying a debt of $ 1,200 per acre. ..

“Agriculture isn’t even close to the income generated by solar power,” he said as he walked through a row of panels surrounded by cornfields.

The nearby Eden Prairie Municipal Roof Joint Project has twice as many subscribers as the panel.

Jennifer Hassebrook, Sustainability Coordinator for Suburban Cities, said:

However, community PV developers are facing obstacles. Under state law, residents and businesses can only join a facility in their county or adjacent facility.

In short, the populous Twin Cites has many potential subscribers, but lacks space for the garden. There is plenty of room in rural areas, but energy buyers are declining.

Reed Richardson, Chief Operating Officer of Minneapolis-based US Solar Corporation, said: Status.

A bill by Patty Ake, a Democrat on behalf of the Twin Cities suburbs, would withdraw the rules for “adjacent counties.”

But Xcel says it is inconsistent with the basic community’s solar principles. It is to generate energy near where it is used.

Community solar is being billed to make renewable energy accessible to homes, especially those in need. Still, sustainability-oriented businesses and public institutions, such as schools and city halls, are in most powers.

Some states are trying to change that.

New Mexico At least 30% of solar project subscribers in each community must be low-income. Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon reserve some of their energy for low- and middle-income residents. New York offers financial incentives for developers to adopt them.

Gilbert Michaud, an assistant professor of public policy at Loyola University Chicago, said:

Looking ahead

Community solar is struggling in states without an established system.

Michigan Consumers Energy opened a 1,752 panel garden this summer on the grounds of an abandoned Cadillac factory, with about 12 projects.

Conservative Republican Michele Hoytenga and progressive Democrat Rachel Hood are sponsoring a house bill to establish a state regulatory program open to third-party energy providers and utilities.

Hoitenga states that it will boost freedom and the economy without raising taxes. Food emphasizes climatic benefits and equal access to renewable energy.

However, their bill is opposed by the state’s two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy. They will cause “energy overproduction … and ultimately higher rates,” said DTE Energy spokesman Pete Ternes.

Rachel Gouldstein, a consulting firm at Wood Mackenzie, said the outlook is bright in non-private business developer-friendly states such as New Jersey, Maine and Illinois.

She predicts that capacity will increase by 140% nationwide by 2026, but growth could depend on removing barriers such as project size limits.

According to Goldstein, community solar will not be comparable to home rooftop installations, much less approaching practical scale operations.

“It’s not realistic to say that this solves the climate crisis and makes everyone a millionaire,” said Timothy Den Herder-Thomas, general manager of Cooperative Energy Futures. “But we can say that you will get better life, more affordable and cleaner.”


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The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Science Education Department of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Community systems provide an alternative path for solar growth | Work

Source link Community systems provide an alternative path for solar growth | Work

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