Developing shared solar programmes could boost the US rooftop market and represent as much as 49% of distributed PV sector in 2020, according to a new report by the US Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The report claims that allocating electricity from jointly owned arrays to be sold to the multiple owners would expand the pool of people who can benefit from solar.
Small business with insufficient roof space, and – crucially – those living in apartment blocks would stand to benefit.
Expanding this segment could lead to the addition of 5.5-11GW of solar between now and 2020, representing an investment of US$8.2 to US$16.3 billion, the report said.
According to the NREL 49% of US households and 48% of business are unable to host a PV array.
"Historically, PV business models and regulatory environments have not been designed to expand access to a significant portion of potential PV system customers," said David Feldman, NREL energy analyst and lead author of the report. "As a result, the economic, environmental, and social benefits of distributed PV have not been available to all consumers. Shared solar programmes open up the market to the other half of businesses and households.”
The report suggests that the schemes may not be treated as for-profit securities if they are marketed as a means to reduce bills, thereby avoiding SEC regulation, which the report said would impact on the way shared solar programmes operate.
The report said governments, utilities and the solar industry could aid the acceleration of the shared solar market through initiatives such as the introduction of local legislation to create transparency and standardisation for investors.