Coupling the benefits of clean, affordable renewable energy more closely with social and economic development, U.S. solar power market participants, including manufacturers such as SolarWorld Industries America, are joining with NGOs and community development organizations to launch “Solarize” community solar energy programs.
On April 22, SolarWorld USA highlighted its participation in the launch of two such programs on opposite sides of the country: one in Charlotte, N.C. and another in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The latest in a growing trend, these grassroots solar energy programs make exclusive use of high-performance SolarWorld photovoltaic (PV) panels — which are made in the U.S., installed by local contractors, and purchased by the groups at volume-discount pricing, the Hillsboro, Ore.-based PV manufacturer highlights in a news release.
Grassroots community solar
SolarWorld’s involvement in the development of local community solar energy projects stretches back to 2009. Since then, it has partnered with so-called “Solarize” campaigns in 26 communities in four states to install solar panels with a rated electricity generation capacity of around 3 megawatts (MW).
“SolarWorld has supplied solar panels for community solar programs since the ‘Solarize’ concept was conceived by residents of a Southeast Portland neighborhood in 2009,” the company highlights in its news release. In partnership with Solar Oregon, the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon, city governments, solar installers, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), SolarWorld has supplied more than 2.6 MW of solar PV panels in Oregon alone.
SolarWorld has also supplied PV panels to Solarize campaigns in neighboring Washington state. Run by the Northwest SEED nonprofit and electric utilities Seattle City Light and Snohomish County Public Utility District, SolarWorld has supplied its PV panels to five communities in and around Seattle since 2012.
Commenting on its involvement in the latest Solarize community-led solar energy campaigns in Charlotte and Salt Lake City, president of SolarWorld Industries America’s U.S. operations Mukesh Dulani commented:
“In this exciting period of the solar industry’s development, when crowd-sourcing is emerging as a viable community financing instrument, the Solarize approach has established a proven track record and model to spark further innovation.”
Solarize Charlotte and Salt Lake City
The latest community solar energy campaigns in Charlotte and Salt Lake City “mark two important evolutions of the community solar concept,” SolarWorld USA goes on to note.
Supported by more than 20 community, faith and other grassroots groups, Charlotte’s Cleaner is Cheaper coalition on April 22 launched its “Solarize Charlotte” program. The focus, as SolarWorld USA explains, is “on bringing clean, safe power to low-income communities and working families.”
Following the lead of the DOE’s Solarize programs in states such as California that were early adopters of solar energy, grassroots coalitions such as Cleaner is Cheaper are now spreading the triple bottom line-based business development model to states where solar power is just beginning to emerge as a mainstream energy alternative.
The Solarize campaign in Utah adds another wrinkle to the community solar development program model: It’s the first in the country to be sponsored by a university.
Dubbed “U Community Solar,” the University of Utah’s campaign is offering university faculty, students, staff, alumni and campus guests discounts on the purchase and installation of solar panels. In addition, U Community Solar participants can give renewable energy credits stemming from their solar energy installations to the university, helping the University of Utah achieve its carbon emissions-reduction goals.
Images courtesy of SolarWorld Industries America