Shared Solar: Sustainable Development Opportunities

Community and shared solar photovoltaic (PV) projects come in many shapes and sizes. Here in Kentucky, Louisville Gas & Electric\Kentucky Utilities (LG&E\KU) and East Kentucky Power Cooperative have launched shared solar projects to meet customer demand. Both are designed very differently based on the input of the

customers and goals of the utility. Generally, there are four types of community or shared solar design pathways. The two in Kentucky can be described as off-site shared solar projects. The other models are available on a state-by-state basis depending on a state’s utility regulations.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that 49% of households and 48% of businesses are currently unable to hosshared-solar-pict a PV system for a host of reasons, including simply poor site suitability. Shared solar PV projects can open the market to these customers and could potentially result in 32%–49% of the distributed PV market in 2020, representing $8.2 billion–$16.3 billion of cumulative investment. There are 25 states with at least one community solar project online through early 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

But locating these projects can provide unique opportunities both for communities and land use planners. An often overlooked location for these projects is contaminated lands, landfills, and former mine sites.  While construction costs can increase due to site characteristics, these sites do represent ample low-cost land that can divert development pressures from open space, increase local economic development activity, support sustainability goals, and aid in remediation of any contamination. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kentucky has more than 350 landfills or other potentially contaminated sites, excluding mine sites, ready for redevelopment.

For more information on community solar development on these land sites, visit Community Solar: An Opportunity to Enhance Sustainable Development on Landfills and Other Contaminated Sites.

Other resources include: