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Expanding access for harvesting the sun



Monday, March 26, 2018

Community solar provides access to solar power to underserved organizations and citizens. Typically community solar projects are owned and controlled by developers or utilities. The Monadnock Sustainability Network’s Community Supported Solar initiative relies on locally developed, funded, owned and controlled solar power projects. MSN undertook the CSS initiative as part of its mission to make the region more sustainable. With the support of grants from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, MSN managed an Antioch University NE research team to explore the new field of community solar; piloted the first CSS project at the Monadnock Food Coop; developed a Guide to help others; and is supporting the development of more Community Supported Solar projects in our region. MSN in collaboration with a number of local organizations is developing these CSS projects that retain tax, investment, energy and labor dollars in the community while providing access to solar for those who often lack access. This N.H. Community Supported Solar initiative was selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Sun Shot Initiative’s Solar in Your Community Challenge to improve access to solar for municipalities, nonprofits and low and moderate income households in the Monadnock region. MSN’s Community Supported Solar (CSS) approach relies on a locally owned LLC that develops and owns the solar (PV) project and sells electricity to the host. This was pioneered on the Monadnock Food Coop in 2016. In the first year that PV system generated more than $4,600 worth of clean electricity. The LLC expects to sell the PV system to the Co-op within ten years. Based on this MSN published the N.H. Community Supported Solar (N.H. CSS) Guide to be used by others to pursue a locally owned, clean, renewable energy system on their favored school, nonprofit, church or other site in their community. This initiative is working to put solar systems on underserved properties in the Monadnock region. There are three types of participants in a CSS project.

The Host is the owner of the property on which the PV system is located.

The Champions make each CSS project happen. The project needs a team who want to see the host get a CSS system. They need an entrepreneurial spirit since they will be setting up a small business to own and operate the PV system with the intent to sell the system to the host. The Investors are local folks who meet the criteria of being accredited investors with passive income who want to put their money to work locally. They form an LLC to own the project, sell electricity to the host and eventually the PV system.

MSN provides guidance, technical support and expertise to keep a team on track for a successful project. Locally owned community supported solar expands access to clean solar electricity. Find out how we can increase our energy independence and resilience; reduce our carbon footprint while boosting the financial strength of our communities. Please visit greenmonadnock.org and watch our N.H. CSS video.

John Kondos is a founder of Home-Efficiency Resources, the Monadnock Sustainability Network (whose mission is to promote credible, sustainable practices in the region) and the Monadnock chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.