New York's first 'shared renewables' solar farm powers up

The 359kW community solar array, built by Renovus Solar, will generate enough power for about 60 homes

The 359kW community solar array, built by Renovus Solar, will generate enough power for about 60 homes

The first community solar project built under New York’s “Shared Renewables” initiative has been commissioned in the state’s Southern Tier region, pointing the way towards a new market for PV that many experts believe could grow rapidly in the coming years.

With 1,100 solar panels, the project in in Trumansburg, southern New York, is 359.1kW in size – enough to power 60 average homes in the area.

It was built by Renovus Solar, a local developer, and has more than three dozen initial investors, all from counties near the array.

Under New York’s Shared Renewables programme launched last year, the benefits of full retail net energy metering (NEM) were extended to community solar projects under 2MW – making it one of the most aggressive such programmes in the country.

While the details of how a community solar scheme works vary by location and power market, the basic idea is simple: allowing people without the option of installing PV panels on their roofs – renters, for example – to invest in ground-mounted arrays in places better suited for solar generation.

Investors within New York's programme must live in the same utility territory as the project they are buying into. Once invested, they see their own electricity meters rolled back based on how much power their share of the array generates, using so-called remote NEM.

Community solar is gaining traction in several dozen US states, with companies like NRG Energy and First Solar-backed Clean Energy Collective among the sector's early-movers.

GTM Research expects about 280MW of community solar to come online this year across the US.

There are nearly 2GW of community solar projects in the works in New York alone, but many will struggle to reach fruition, due largely to interconnection issues in the state, according to GTM.

New York has a bevy of pro-renewables programmes underway as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sweeping Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative.

The state recently adopted a highly ambitious 50% renewable power target for 2030, which is likely to spark huge growth in onshore and offshore wind, large-scale and behind-the-meter solar, and imports of hydropower from Canada.

New York’s solar market has grown rapidly over the past several years, and is now the fourth largest in the country, with more than 8,000 workers.


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