What’s better than clean air?  Getting money for clean air!  The first community solar project in Washington, DC just received its first solar renewable energy credit (SREC) check, and can look forward to many more throughout the years. Sol Systems has partnered with New Partners Community Solar Corp., an independent non-profit corporation supported by the law firm Nixon Peabody, to monetize their SRECs. New Partners’ first project is a true success story of community solar in our own backyard.

You’re not dreaming. Community Solar is now a reality in DC.

Community solar offers anyone within a designated area the opportunity to access solar energy even if they don’t have a roof or land to house a solar system. Until now, a host of major obstacles have impeded numerous people and businesses from being able to choose solar energy as their power source. Among these hurdles are no roof space, bad roof space, no land, and difficulty or inability to obtain financing, to name just a few. In response, community solar markets have started to pop up around the country to make solar a more inclusive technology.

While the exact structure through which community solar exists depends on the market, virtual net metering is a component of many such programs. The way it works is that a solar system is installed nearby and shared among subscribers. Then, each subscriber receives a credit on their electric bill for energy produced by their share of the system.

In Washington, DC, the Community Renewables Energy Act (CREA) of 2013 first allowed community solar through virtual net metering. However, the rule-making process for implementation took several years to complete, and final rules were passed only in 2016.

A key distinguishing factor of the final rules established in 2016, which many advocates helped fight for, was that subscribers could receive the full retail rate for their participation in a community solar program. PEPCO began accepting applications soon thereafter.

Yet, even with the regulatory framework in place for community solar, to make implementation a reality, the solar industry would have to overcome several challenges. Ownership structure, sizing, financing, and gaining subscribers are significant challenges of any community solar project.

Real world implementation. Three rooftops and a community coming together.

Three rooftop systems together form the largest commercial rooftop solar and the first community solar project in DC. The founders of New Partners Solar, Herb Stevens and Jeff Lesk said, “Our company’s name reflects the successful mission – it was many new partners that together built this solar facility and shared the benefits with the broader community.”  These groups included:

  1. Brookfield Properties, the property owners of the buildings on which the systems are situated, donated their rooftops to host the community solar project.
  2. The National Housing Trust (NHT) Community Development Fund provided a loan, Enterprise Community Partners provided tax equity, DOEE provided a grant, Nixon Peabody donated legal services, and Sol Systems helped monetize the SRECs.
  3. Approximately 100 families that live at the Copeland Manor Cooperative, an NHT-managed property in Southeast Washington, D.C, and Trinity Plaza, a Mission First-managed property in Southwest Washington, DC are now subscribers and will each receive bill credits of about $240 each year.

How SRECs Help Finance Community Solar

Through the community solar model, the generator owner or subscriber organization of the community solar project typically maintains ownership of the SRECs. The organization then passes through cost-savings to the subscribers. In markets like D.C. where values of SRECs are among the highest in the country, the SRECs constitute a substantive source of financing for the solar project.

Currently, in the SREC states in which Sol Systems works, only D.C., Delaware, Maryland, and Massachusetts have policy in place for shared renewables.

And, it’s only the beginning.

New Partners Community Solar Corp. has already announced phase two of its program, funded in part by a Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) grant from the DC Solar for All program. For this next phase, New Partners is looking to worth additional owners who would like to donate downtown commercial rooftop space to community solar. If you would like to learn more or are interested in supporting the work of New Partners you can contact Genevieve Fugere Hulick at Genevieve@npsolar.org or 240-472-8969.

ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS

Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.

Over the last eight years, Sol Systems has delivered 650MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.

Inc. 5000 recognized Sol Systems in its annual list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.