Solar for Everyone: Community Shared Solar Growing Trend
On-site solar has grown sharply over the past few years, both in the number of programs and participants. Today, 43 states and Washington, D.C. have adopted net metering policies, which let individuals and businesses offset their electricity bills with self-generated energy. Participation more than doubled each of the last two years.
But many homes and businesses can’t participate. Government studies show that only about one-quarter of U.S. households are able to install solar on their roofs. They may be renters, or live in multi-tenant buildings, or not have adequate or appropriate roof space. How could more people benefit from solar energy?
A piece of the solution.
Community shared solar programs allow people to benefit from solar energy as if they had installed panels on their own roofs. If just five percent of U.S. households were to invest in a 3-kW share of a community solar system—the size of a typical rooftop solar installation—it would result in over 17,000 MW of additional solar capacity.
Recognizing its enormous potential, including benefits to low-income and underserved communities, IREC established itself as a thought leader in the development of community shared solar through research, outreach and education. Its experts developed and promote model program rules for states, speak widely on the topic, and work closely with numerous stakeholders, utility commissions and utilities.
Despite facing a variety of challenges, the commitment of IREC and its partners has resulted in a growing number of community shared solar programs – currently in 16 states. IREC is currently working on development of programs in six states, and at several municipal and cooperative utilities across the U.S.
According to IREC’s research, roughly half of community-shared solar programs are run by electric cooperatives, with the other half split between municipal utilities and investor-owned utilities. To provide a glimpse of what these programs look like, IREC developed brief case studies of three programs.
Raising the Bar for Clean Energy Workforce Education
“Calhoun Community College had no renewable energy or energy efficiency programs just a few years ago. Today, we boast a brand new facility with numerous RE/EE training programs. The SITN has been an important part of building our instructors’ skills and knowledge, allowing us to take our programs to anew level.”
Jerry W. Adams, Director ACECET, Calhoun State CC, Alabama
A well-trained workforce is fundamental to our clean energy future, and a driver of consumer confidence in clean energy technologies. Instructional programs that train solar energy and other clean energy technicians are growing quickly. IREC’s goal is to help create consistency among training programs by establishing a common set of objectives and guiding principles – education standards based on industry-valued, marketable skills.
A piece of the solution.
From Maine to Hawaii, quality, education and training of the next generation of solar instructors is in high gear at some of the most renowned solar training facilities in the U.S. Working with a strong national collaborative group of educational and industry experts, IREC and the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) it administers have, in three short years, facilitated a powerful move to market-valued education and training for the clean energy sector.
- Today, more programs are integrating solar technology into their existing curriculum.
- Programs that already taught solar technology are raising the quality bar and teaching to market needs.
- New instructors are better trained, from high school teachers to community college instructors. Even a professor with a Ph.D in electrical engineering may have limited PV experience.
IREC’s new compendium of Best Practices in Clean Energy Workforce Education is highly regarded as a masterful guide to what sets apart quality programs and instructors.
By reaching into college campuses around the country, IREC has expanded the platform to engage the public on the importance of widespread adoption of a clean energy future. More about the SITN.
The Power of Credentialing
“We had a stable of eight classes that we had developed, based on the building block theory and core competencies matrix that the Department of Energy (DOE) had provided at that time. DOE was subsidizing the accreditation process, so we took full advantage and chose to go for all accredited programs.”
Roger Smith, Director WTC, Pulaski Technical College
Roger Smith spent seven years renovating and remodeling homes in historic districts of Little Rock, Arkansas. He joined Pulaski Technical College (PTC) in May 2010 to develop its Weatherization Training Center (WTC). But he wasn’t going to go it alone. If he was building a program, it would be based on much more than his own knowledge, though it was extensive. So as part of its original grant agreement with the Arkansas Weatherization Assistance Program, the school agreed to provide training that would lead to a recognizable national credential.
Roger is a big believer in credentials. He’s certainly got quite a few: Building Performance Institute Building Analyst; Environmental Protection Agency Lead Renovate Right Paint Certificate and Instructor; National Center for Healthy Housing Healthy Homes Practitioner Instructor. “Wish I had more,” he says. He wanted to build a program that was accredited in the field.
A piece of the solution.
In just two years, PTC’s Retrofit Installer Program became an IREC accredited Training Program, becoming the third WTC in the country to receive accreditation.
PTC is the fourth largest college in Arkansas. Its staff has served on national technical panels and presented at national conferences. It is an approved testing center for the new National Certifications for Home Energy Professionals.
Now, PTC is working on getting their trainers certified as Master Trainers, and they are well into the process of achieving accreditation for Crew Leader, Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector training programs.