Community Shared Renewables Explained

Written by guest blogger Gary Skulnik www.OurPower.Solar 


As New York grapples with the future of *distributed energy, especially solar, the state is at a major crossroads that could decide whether it embraces a clean and equitable future, or if it sets the table for only the large players to sit. A recent solar conference in Brooklyn, solidified my thinking on which direction the state is choosing – letting the big guys run the show. The panel in the morning session on NY State project issues featured only big players. Not a single small player made it. The common theme among the panelists was how opaque and difficult the interconnection process, permitting, and property tax issues are for solar projects. Large companies, with the resources to deploy (person hours and money) can handle these complexities and road blocks. Small companies cannot.

The new “Value of Distributed Energy Resources” (VDER) pricing for solar has a lot of positive attributes, such as trying to direct projects where they are needed most, but does not address the disparity between large and small projects. Yes, from a climate change and grid perspective, the more solar the better and that means big projects, which are cheaper bring a lot of benefits. However, if we are to truly avoid disastrous climate change, create jobs, and produce a more equitable society, we need to have small projects peppered around the state. Think about it. Small projects on the local church, community center, or civic building do more than produce clean energy. They create a stronger sense of community, build a broader constituency for a clean environment, and help contribute to hard-hit towns across the state. Consumers will keep their energy dollars local, help create local jobs, and support the growth of small homegrown solar companies across the state. Finally, incentivizing small projects is the right thing to do. Climate change impacts everyone, but it hurts economically depressed communities even more. Everyone deserves to reap the benefits of climate change solutions.

To its credit, NY state leaders see this problem and are working to address it, but they need to do more and do it faster. They need to come up with a carve-out for small projects that would get greater incentives and help with regulatory red tape. This would make our state’s new community shared solar program a win-win for everybody, the way it’s supposed to be.

Addendum by Sane Energy Project:

*Power generation at the point of consumption. Generating power on-site, rather than centrally, like a big power plant, eliminates the cost, complexity, interdependencies, and inefficiencies associated with transmission and distribution. Decentralized energy is generated or stored by a variety of small, grid-connected devices referred to as distributed energy resources (DER)

To TAKE ACTION on promoting community-shared renewables in New York State, join our statewide alliance in calling on Governor Cuomo to appoint People’s Commissioners to the Public Service Commission who will protect New Yorkers and the Environment.