DOE sets new community solar target, requires 700% growth in 4 years

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Community solar projects like this one in Illinois will need to increase more than 7-fold in 4 years, according to a DOE analysis. Image: Pivot Energy.

US Department of Energy (DOE) secretary Jennifer Granholm has announced a new National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) target to have community solar projects provide 26GW of power and create US$1 billion in bill savings by 2025.

This, said the DOE, would help the Biden-Harris Administration achieve its goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. Currently, however, there is enough community solar to power just 600,000 homes, meaning an increase of more the 700% is needed over the next four years to meet the DOE’s new target.

In order to achieve this, the DOE is offering free, on-demand technical assistance to NCSP partnership members. This will take the form of personalised support to community solar organisations to help them accelerate installations, improve project performance and build future capacity. NCSP has already distributed US$1 million for technical assistance and hopes to provide US$2 million in the next year.

The ambitious targets were welcomed by community solar organisations. The Coalition for Community Solar Access’s executive director, Jeff Cramer, said: “Today’s announcement from secretary Granholm demonstrates the overwhelming support that’s building for the role community solar should play in transforming and strengthening our energy grid while expanding access to solar for all.

“DOE’s goal of 26 GW by 2025 is consistent with the accelerated growth that our research shows is needed for the community solar industry to meet our climate goals at the lowest cost.”

Kiran Bhatraju, CEO and founder of Arcadia, the US’ largest manager of community solar projects, said he was “energised” by the new goal and that it was “fantastic to see the Secretary’s commitment to public education about how community solar can help people reap the benefits of clean energy”.

A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and NCSP report, Sharing the Sun, showed that community solar can lead to bill savings from 5% to 25%. Achieving US$1 billion in cost savings would mean that, on average, community solar projects would provide a 20% bill savings, said the DOE.

“Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar energy to all American households,” said DOE secretary Jennifer Granholm. “Achieving these ambitious targets will lead to meaningful energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities, and make our clean energy transition more equitable.”

Published last month, the DOE’s Solar Futures Study laid out the critical role solar could play in decarbonising the US’ power system. PV Tech Premium broke down what it meant for the future of solar.

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