The growth of consumer purchases of solar power through community-based systems is growing rapidly in the southeastern region of the United States. The reason for the rapid growth is more and more consumers understand the benefits of solar energy and ratepayers now have the option paying for the system on a pro-rata basis. Nimble rural cooperatives and municipal utilities have driven the rapid growth in solar power in the southeastern region of the United States. Investor-owned utilities are just now recognizing the potential of solar power. Examples of the community-based solar power systems include:
- Georgia Power launched a 2-MW community solar program in January and has seen strong interest with hundreds of enrollments of 1 kW blocks. Consumers can purchase “blocks of solar-power electricity for $24.99 per month. Georgia Power ratepayers see a line item on their monthly bills showing the subscription fee and their share of the community solar facilities’ output in kilowatt hours during that month. That output offsets their electric consumption based on the number of blocks purchased.
- Seminole Electric is an electric generation and transmission cooperative in Florida. Seminole Electric launched the largest community solar facility for any utility in the southeastern region of the United States. Seminole Electric has a 2.2-MW system which allows the cooperative to offer community solar to ratepayers through its nine distribution centers.
- The Electric Power Board in Chattanooga in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority began developing the Solar Share Program in 2016. The partnership installed approximately 4,400 solar panels with a capacity of 1.4 MW. Residential and business customers have subscribed to approximately 2,000 panels at $5 per panel per month. The Solar Share Program has reduced the demand for coal for electrical power by over one million tons!
- BARC Electric Cooperative is headquartered in Bath County, Virginia. BARC Electric began an operational solar program in 2016. BARC’s solar power system is meeting 25% of the electricity needs of 212 subscribers at a fixed price for 20 years.
- Duke Energy in North Carolina has submitted a proposal to state regulators for the state’s largest community solar program. Duke Energy’s program came in response to legislation passed in 2017 aimed at boosting residential solar ownership through rebates and community solar offerings.
- Kentucky Utilities and LG&E Energy are seeking to sell subscriptions to the new Solar Shae Program. The program allows shareholders to buy power from one solar panel.
These successes have caused large utilities in the southeast region of the United States to pursue new options for solar power. In my opinion, this is another indication that the United States is beginning to move away from fossil fuel and to embrace green, renewable energy.