Many businesses and people that would like access to solar can’t afford it or experience some other roadblock to installing it, such as poor locations for solar access. One solution to these problems is “community solar,” an arrangement in which an investor or other organization pays to have a large solar array built in or a near a community, and then sells access to people interested in purchasing it.
In many cases, community solar arrays have been built in urban, suburban or other congested areas. However, according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), rural areas have plenty of opportunity for community solar growth, especially on land owned by farmers.
“Community solar enables equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy regardless of the physical attributes or ownership status of an individual’s home or business,” the SEIA stated in the report. “In other words, if you can’t install solar directly on your property, community solar is a great option for accessing the savings and other benefits solar provides.”
The report notes that there are almost two gigawatts of community solar installed across the United States. Currently, such projects are authorized in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and they allow residents, small businesses, municipalities and farmers to receive credit on their electricity bills for the power produced from their sections of a solar array.
The report provides details on a number of project models and arrangements that farmers are making to build or host community solar projects, and it offers resources to help landowners, solar firms and contractors navigate this growing market.
In most cases, for farming sites specifically, according to the report, agricultural operations will lease a portion of their property for solar development for the life of the project up to 30 years.
“If the solar project comes to fruition, the solar company pays the landowner for use of the property on which the solar array is located,” said the SEIA.
The concept provides clean, renewable energy to rural communities and an additional source of income for farmers.
“These projects can also help states and towns hit their clean energy and climate goals without disrupting agricultural production,” said the SEIA.