Community Shared Solar refers to a solar-electric system which provides power and/or financial benefits to subscribing members of a community. Subscribers receive credits on their electric bills for their portion of the energy generated by their allotted panels. These panels are located in an array off-site, meaning they are not physically on the subscriber's home or business. In this case, "community" is flexibly defined. It can be defined by location or merely a group of people who are connected via their electric utility.
Many people want the benefits of solar but for a variety of reasons cannot install solar panels where they live. They may rent, have a compromised or shaded roof, or experience other factors which limit their ability to benefit from renewable energy. At the same time, funding for renewable energy projects is supported by all ratepayers and tax payers, so increasing access to the benefits of these projects is a matter of equity.
Michigan currently does not have enabling legislation for community solar, so community solar programs in Michigan are developed and managed through a local electric utility.
Energy Services participated in the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy for Low-Income Community Accelertor (CELICA), and continues to work with partners to address low-income energy challenges and provide access to alternative clean energy.
CELICA Phase I: Co-op Utility Community Solar Project - In 2018 Energy Services partnered with Cherryland Cooperative and the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency to implement a Low-Moderate Income Community Solar project for up to 50 low-income households in the Grand Traverse region. Each household underwent weatherization upgrades to their homes and were assigned nine (9) panel shares from which they will receive a monthly credit.
CELICA Phase II: Municipality Utility Community Solar Project - In 2019 Energy Services partnered with the Village of L'Anse and the Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Community Action Agency to implement a Low-Income Community Solar project for up to 25 low-income households in the Village of L'Anse. Each household underwent weatherization upgrades to their homes and purchased up to ten (10) panels. The panels are financed through on-bill financing and the subscribers can view the solar credit on their electric bill.
CELICA Phase III: Investor Owned Utility Community Solar Project - In 2021 Energy Services partnered with Consumers Energy and the Capital Area Community Services to implement a Low-income Community Solar project for up to 50 low-income households in Lansing.
Community-Scale Solar refers to the size of a solar-electric system which is smaller than a large utility-scale system but larger than most individually-owned rooftop solar systems.
Community Solar can also imply a more direct link to the physical location of a community-scale solar system within the geography of a community. It often means community-level ownership and decision-making regarding the development of the project.