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Community solar can survive even in a pandemic


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reached almost every household, business and industry in the country. Renewable energy, especially solar energy, has not been spared the effects of economic recession and collective uncertainty. Market turmoil, worries about liquidity, rising unemployment, falling consumer disposable spending, supply constraints and worker layoffs are challenging companies throughout the supply chain.


However, community solar shows that it is well positioned to deal with the negative effects of a pandemic.


Before the COVID-19 crisis, community solar was the fastest growing part of the solar industry. According to NREL data, by the end of 2019, the country has built 1.3 GW of community solar energy, and 1.8 GW of development pipelines are under construction. Although the short-term pain of the entire industry is showing, consumers' continued demand for solar photovoltaics, the cost competitiveness of community solar energy and new market expansion have brought optimism to the health of 2020 and 2021.


Broad market and low risk

Despite the growing demand for clean, renewable energy, for more than half of US residents and businesses, installing solar photovoltaic power is not a viable option. There are many reasons: their roof space is insufficient to accommodate the solar system, the shadow of the roof or the direction towards the sun is incorrect, they rent property and cannot access the roof, or they lack funds to invest in an onsite system.


The community solar model eliminates these obstacles and provides solar benefits for all people who receive electricity bills (including low-income residents, businesses, municipalities, schools, and nonprofit organizations).


Participants also have obvious economic benefits. Many community solar programs allow customers to offset all or part of their electricity consumption without having to participate in upfront costs. Most plans provide rates that are lower than the utility fees paid by the participants, and directly provide monetary credit for the participant’s share of array solar production on their utility bills, thereby immediately reducing monthly utilities cost.


For project financiers and asset owners, community solar farms are relatively stable and low-risk investments. As a result, we see that the momentum of the capital market has shifted from the interests of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and medium-sized distributed power generation plays an important role. Most community solar projects have utility purchasers with long-term power purchase agreements and are based on business participants with commercial-grade credit, which means sustained and stable returns. Some use aggregators to bring buyers of all types and sizes into one purchase, thereby achieving mutually beneficial economies of scale and risk management.


Resilience and growth

Market development-Strong before the pandemic, community solar programs recently launched or expanded in New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island and Virginia continued during the crisis.


As states consider investing in renewable energy as part of their economic recovery efforts, this trend may continue and more policymakers, regulators and advocates will learn and adopt best practices to balance market Multiple interests and the economic viability of community solar energy.


Although the true scale of the impact remains to be seen, it depends to a large extent on the duration and severity of the economic recession, but the reality is that this crisis has exacerbated our accelerated transition to widely available and affordable renewable energy Need. As more companies, consumers, schools and municipalities seek the simplicity and flexibility of community solar energy, and more and more developers and financiers pursue predictable and stable investments, their The value in this mission will continue to increase.

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