First Solar has entered the US community solar market after taking an equity interest in Clean Energy Collective (CEC).
CEC builds ground-mounted PV arrays and offers local residents the opportunity to buy into the project and receive electricity from it. The model is popular in city’s where apartment blocks dominate and residents don’t have access to their own rooftop solar.
First Solar CEO Jim Hughes and VP of strategic marketing Marc van Gerven have joined the CEC board. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
“Distributed generation in the form of community solar expands the addressable market dramatically beyond the traditional residential or commercial sectors, and CEC has led the way in making that happen,” said Hughes. “This deal is a natural fit that leverages CEC's residential experience on the ground with First Solar's expertise in utility-scale generation and panel technology. This innovative and cost-competitive approach will further establish solar, and specifically community solar, as a critical part of the global energy mix for all markets,” he added.
Paul Spencer, founder and CEO of CEC said the involvement of First Solar was validated the community solar model.
“This collaboration will allow us to accelerate our expansion to new markets and customers, and will provide both customers and our utility partners with the added confidence that CEC and our community solar projects will deliver long-term, scalable energy solutions at the most cost-effective pricing,” added Spencer.
Cory Honeyman, solar analyst with GTM Research told PV Tech the market is a source of largely untapped potential.
“To date, the community solar market represents a relatively minor share of the US solar market, accounting for well under 1% of cumulative installations. However, the community solar segment represents a large unaddressed opportunity given that 75% of homeowners in the US are unable to install solar on their rooftops, according to a recent study by NREL,” Honeyman said.
“Keeping that in mind, First Solar's entrance into community solar represents a seamless strategy for entering the DG market by continuing to develop utility scale projects, while leveraging CEC’s industry leading expertise in landing customers interested in community solar,” added Honeyman.