Three New Community-Shared Solar Projects Launch in Massachusetts

Clean Energy Collective breaks ground on 4 MW of new capacity, continues aggressive rollout of broader customer access to solar

Clean Energy Collective (CEC), the nation’s leading community solar developer and solutions provider, has broken ground on three new community solar facilities in Massachusetts, adding a combined 4 MW of new generation to the Commonwealth’s mounting shared renewables portfolio. Located in the communities of Millis, Rochester, and Wendell, the projects will serve customers in National Grid and Eversource service territories and are expected to complete construction by March 2018.

Clean Energy Collective, one of the region’s largest community solar providers, has developed 34 projects – nearly 50 MW of capacity – in Massachusetts, as the company continues its mission to deliver broad and equal access to locally-generated, affordable, clean energy to all electricity ratepayers across the Commonwealth.

“Community shared solar is proving to be the clean energy solution Massachusetts customers are looking for, and CEC is continuing to deliver projects that provide this choice,” said Tom Sweeney, CEC’s President of Renewables. “We look forward to serving even more Massachusetts customers and remain diligent in our mission to ensure every household and business in the Commonwealth has access to local clean energy.”

Through CEC’s RooflessSolar program, any Massachusetts electric customer – including residential, commercial and government customers – can secure long-term energy savings and hedge against increasing energy costs without the need for a solar-suitable roof or upfront investment.

Developing these projects also delivers broad benefits to the host communities through significant construction investment, a variety of high-paying jobs, lease payments for land owners, substantial tax revenues, and valuable utility system upgrades.

In addition to the growing portfolio of completed projects, CEC has several additional projects in the development pipeline to serve the state’s increasing demand. CEC expects to begin construction on several of these before the end of 2017.

Demand for community solar is growing throughout the country as well. CEC has built or has under development more than 130 RooflessSolar projects within 33 utility service territories across 15 states, serving thousands of customers, and representing more than 350 MW of community solar capacity.

Why Solar Needs a “Joe the Installer”

You may remember Sam Wurzelbacher…aka “Joe the Plumber.” In 2008, Sam confronted then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama in Ohio to contest the central campaign issue of taxes. During that election, “Joe the Plumber” became a representative for working class Americans who shoulder the nation’s gritty entrepreneurial spirit and yet were most often overlooked or undervalued in political strategery. Today, as the nation braces for the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) decision on potential trade remedies for imported solar cells and modules, the solar industry might well benefit from a similar champion.

It is unclear how far down the U.S. supply chain the ITC choses (or dares) to venture in determining the consequences of any and all potential trade remedies. How much of “the industry” will they deem inclusive and important? Will they, could they, view their decisions through the ground-level eyes of the industry’s economic engine, i.e. “Joe the Installer”?

Those opposing tariffs or other remedies, which is most of the solar industry, argue that of the more than 260,000 American jobs in solar, only a small percentage are in manufacturing, the primary beneficiaries of a trade action. The vast majority are jobs in the downstream and supporting sectors of the supply chain, like project developers, EPCs, electrical and civic engineers, commercial and residential installers, service providers, and investors. A narrowly viewed trade remedy could result in the immediate loss of a third of these jobs.

Every day I work to help companies communicate with their customers and potential customers, sell more product, and get more megawatts of clean energy into the ground. Putting the brakes on solar’s momentum now will certainly impact my company and most of those we work with.

But despite being a bright spot in the U.S. economy, these are just jobs…without faces or names or stories. How can we expect a four-person committee to look beyond the mechanical and, potentially, ideological? The better question is, how can we help them to?

It will certainly be a net loss to the U.S. economy if higher panel prices will benefit domestic module producers less than the overall harm caused to the greater solar industry. And from my perspective, “Joe the Installer” is the greater solar industry.


Tim Braun is principal of b2,inc., a communications company serving renewable energy and sustainable brands.

 

Two Energy Powerhouses Broaden Community Solar Access in Massachusetts

ENGIE and Clean Energy Collective collaborate on a 16-project, 22 MW community solar portfolio

Global energy player ENGIE, focusing on responsible growth and a transition to a low-carbon economy, and Clean Energy Collective (CEC), the nation’s leading community solar solutions provider, have joined forces on a community solar portfolio consisting of 16 solar facilities located throughout Massachusetts. The strategic move combines ENGIE’s position as a leading provider of retail energy services and supply with CEC’s proven community solar development and program management process to broaden access to solar throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“ENGIE offers consumers a variety of renewable energy offerings as part of our commitment to a decentralized and decarbonized energy future, and community solar is a key component of that,” said Vikram Kulkarni, vice president of solar for ENGIE Resources. “This collaborative project adds valuable renewable energy to the grid while allowing our customers, including businesses, nonprofits, public entities, residents and even renters to ‘go green’ and save money with nothing on their roof or property.”

The alliance leverages CEC’s expertise in developing and operating community solar projects and ENGIE’s vast reach providing retail energy services to immediately open the benefits of community solar to a large base of residential, commercial, and municipal energy users across Massachusetts. CEC led the development of the projects, while the two collaborators will jointly own and operate the 16 community solar projects currently constructed and interconnected in Eversource and National Grid territories, delivering more than 22.1 megawatts of locally-generated clean energy, which is equivalent to offsetting energy consumption for 5,000 residential homes each year with a clean carbon-free source. Combined with previous projects, CEC continues to be the largest developer of community solar within Massachusetts, bringing long-term project management and customer expertise to the portfolio. A large percentage of the projects are already directly benefitting ENGIE’s Massachusetts customers through its residential retail brand Think Energy and its commercial, industrial, and municipal energy supplier, ENGIE Resources.

“Combining the expertise of these two leading companies on a community solar portfolio of this magnitude is a win-win for Massachusetts energy consumers,” said Paul Spencer, Clean Energy Collective’s founder and CEO. “ENGIE has an excellent track record meeting growing consumer demand for affordable renewable energy while delivering an incomparable customer experience.”

Distributed energy generation via community solar is delivering significant economic and operational advantages that directly benefit energy consumers, utilities, and local communities, including decades of property tax revenues for towns, lease payments to land owners, millions of dollars of construction investment, short and long-term job creation from construction and maintenance, and long-term energy savings for area businesses and residential customers. It also brings the source of power generation closer to customers and consumption, eliminating costly losses from long transmission lines and giving consumers the ability to benefit from renewable resources built in their local communities.

ENGIE’s participation further demonstrates its confidence in community solar as a model poised for exponential growth, and CEC’s and ENGIE’s combined expertise on these initial 16 projects paves the way for bringing new innovations to this rapidly growing and changing industry.

 


 

The Global Annual Market for the Deployment of Distributed Solar PV Plus Energy Storage is Expected to Exceed $49 Billion by 2026

A new report from Navigant Research examines the global market for distributed solar PV plus energy storage (DSES), providing an analysis of market issues and market forecasts for capacity and revenue, through 2026.

The growth of distributed energy resources (DER) is changing how electricity is delivered by the grid to end users. Distributed solar PV has grown to become a valuable part of the global power generation mix and is forecast to grow substantially in the next several years. Many residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) sector customers are beginning to shift away from solely purchasing electricity from their local utilities to procuring a diverse suite of onsite technologies that includes solar PV and (soon) energy storage. The rapid growth of distributed solar PV in recent years has helped drive the transformation of a grid system that is increasingly affected by DER.

Annual Distributed and Remote, Off-Grid Solar PV Plus Energy Storage Power Capacity and Vendor Revenue by Region, World Markets: 2017-2026

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Clean Energy Collective Introduces Rate-Based Community Solar for Investor-Owned Utilities

Continuing to lead innovation, Clean Energy Collective (CEC), the pioneer and national leader of roofless community solar, announced today the launch of the first shared solar program that provides investor-owned utilities (IOU) with the ability to rate base a community solar program while offering their solar customers an immediate economic benefit, without non-participant subsidization.

CEC’s new IOU-owned solar model bucks conventional wisdom that utilities cannot justify ratepayer solar participation without creating a subsidy. “After several years of pursuing this goal, CEC is finally able to offer community solar to our IOU partners as a profitable investment as well as a preferred offering for their customers,” explains Paul Spencer, founder and CEO of Clean Energy Collective.

The inflection point is driven by the current intersection of low solar installation costs, high customer demand for community solar options, rising energy rates, and the availability of the solar investment tax credit (ITC).  The opportunity for the best returns, however, has a limited lifespan as the ITC is set to expire at the end of 2016.

To address the distinct needs of IOUs, CEC’s new community solar program provides the utility the ability to own the solar system so that the asset can be included in their rate base. Meanwhile, the federal ITC is monetized and cash proceeds are returned to the utility on a schedule that tracks the associated revenue requirement. CEC continues to provide the expertise and services necessary to make the community solar program a success. The result is a program that offers utilities a competitive return and positive NPV (net present value) from their solar investment without requiring a cost-shift to non-participants, thus creating no upward pressure on rates.

Not only does the utility benefit from this structure, it also translates to a better customer experience in the form of lower participation costs, favorable program-term lengths, and a faster payback period. As a result, utilities are able to meet market demands for renewables, regulatory requirements and achieve respectable margins.

“Many regulated utilities have viewed solar ownership as a challenge to a prudent RE strategy,” said Mr. Spencer. “Through this new community solar model, IOUs can now effectively rate base community solar assets on their grid without the risk of cross-subsidization.”

With more than 130 MW of roofless community solar projects built or under development with 25 utility partners, CEC has demonstrated its expertise in timely and successful development across numerous environments and is uniquely positioned to help IOUs capitalize on this limited opportunity. “With the ITC expiration on the horizon, we are getting these projects moving throughout the country and across the finish line as quickly as possible,” Mr. Spencer added. Programs under regulatory consideration and solar projects already within development are also strong candidates for CEC’s IOU rate-based community solar offering.