The Biden administration has announced a new ambitious target of powering 5 million American homes with community solar power by 2025. This would require the current capacity to grow by 700% in the next four years. Although the target may seem unrealistic, experts say it is achievable.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a total of 3,253 MW-AC of community solar was installed by the end of 2020. This energy can serve up to 600,000 homes.
Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement that achieving the new set targets would provide affordable energy for Americans. “Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar energy to all American households, regardless of whether they own a home or have a roof suitable for solar panels,” Granholm said. “Achieving these ambitious targets will lead to meaningful energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities, and make our clean energy transition more equitable.”
According to C.J. Colavito, vice president of engineering at Standard Solar and one of the leading proprietors of community solar projects in the U.S., the problem in the sector lies with policies. He argues that with proper policies, community-based solar can be developed past the target. For instance, he cites challenges in permitting, interconnection and subscriptions.
According to Colavito, some projects take up to 24 months to get approved, a situation that is already delaying the start of many projects. Further, he points at the interconnection of projects as another problem that may take years to resolve.
“Oftentimes, siting your system and getting interconnection can be the two most important items to get done before you even dive into the other challenges with community solar,” Colavito said.
Currently, community solar projects exist in 21 states and the District of Colombia. According to the NREL, these projects are either state-required or pilot programs. Even so, the concentration of available solar projects in just a few states shows the policy disparities. States like Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts and New York lead the way due to helpful policies.
If the Biden Administration reaches its targets, it would result in $1 billion in energy savings. Further, clean energy would create jobs while providing cheaper and sustainable energy for Americans.
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