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Community Solar+ Reimagines the Potential for Community Solar to Advance Local Climate and Equity Goals

Community solar projects can do far more for communities than expand access to locally generated clean energy and create local solar jobs; with holistic planning using a new approach called “Community Solar+,” projects can also accelerate numerous other community-wide sustainability and equity goals.

Boulder, CO – April 12, 2022

The first generation of community solar enabled greater access to locally produced clean energy while boosting local jobs and economic investments. A new report issued by RMI today introduces “Community Solar+,” a whole-systems approach to planning and deploying community solar projects to capture greater economies of scale and advance other community-wide sustainability and equity goals.

Community solar projects have increased 10-fold in the United States since 2015. Community Solar+: How the Next Generation of Community Solar Can Unlock New Value Streams and Help Communities Pursue Holistic Decarbonization shows how this continued growth presents an untapped opportunity for local governments and communities to use community solar projects to help achieve their climate action targets more strategically, comprehensively, and equitably.

“At its core, Community Solar+ is doing more with less. So, rather than just focusing on the clean energy component, projects can be designed to also help build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure, align the grid for an electrified future, mitigate urban heat island effects, and more,” said Madeline Tyson, RMI manager and report co-author. “For local governments, this means being able to better manage competing priorities for limited city budgets.”

The report provides analysis, guidance, and policy recommendations for state and local governments, utilities, developers, and community members to think more deliberately about full project value when planning, designing, and deploying new community solar projects. Additional values that can be achieved through a Community Solar+ project include:

  • Accelerating investment in EV charging infrastructure
  • Increasing energy resilience for critical assets and vulnerable communities
  • Aligning evolving grid and customer needs for an electrified future
  • Creating a more equitable energy system
  • Providing covered parking and weather protection
  • Mitigating urban heat island effects

“Momentum is building for more community solar. But let’s deploy community solar in a way that truly creates community assets,” said Matthew Popkin, RMI manager and report co-author. “I hope that Community Solar+ gives state, local, and utility leaders the tools and creative license to think outside the box of community solar in pursuit of a more electrified, resilient, and equitable clean energy future.”

Community Solar+ also provides an illustrative financial model stakeholders can use to demonstrate how some value streams can be monetized to invest in an integrated, renewable, electrified, and resilient future. The report highlights four case studies demonstrating Community Solar+ strategies already under development in Denver, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C.

To download the report and an infographic illustrating how a Community Solar+ project deployment might look, visit: https://rmi.org/insight/community-solar-plus.

 

Media Inquiries

Daina Rudusa, Manager – Media Relations, T: +1 917 622 1865 E:media@rmi.org

About RMI

RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

More information on RMI can be found at www.rmi.org or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.