Let’s Get Local – Solar Energy Facts and Information
June 23, 2016
Here at Cypress Creek Renewables, we talk a lot about local solar because we believe that local solar is one of the most effective ways of delivering renewable, clean energy to the greatest number of people. But what does the term “local solar” mean, exactly? How does it differ from community solar? And why is local solar important? We wrote this article to provide our readership with some local solar energy facts and information and to help differentiate the concept as a best practice in solar energy implementation.
Local Solar – It’s Not One-Size-Fits-All
Local color, local character, local culture. The term “local” is used to describe the behaviors and ways of being specific to a particular location or group. Because every place and every community is different, the term local, as it applies to community, means something a little different in each situation. The local culture of a small Maine crabbing town is very different from the local culture of a Montana ranching community, and both of these locales are different from a suburban enclave outside Los Angeles.
All of these places are 100% American, but under that national banner, they are as different as can be. In much the same way, we have adopted the term “local” to describe our approach to solar because, through our experiences in bringing small utility scale solar farming to different communities across the country, we have found that, while it is always solar farming, the mode of energy delivery changes in relation to the different communities we serve.
Local Solar State By State
Different states have different regulatory environments and varying clean energy goals and mandates. For example, in states like Texas and New York, which are deregulated markets, Cypress Creek—or any renewables project developer—can sell energy directly to the consumer. On the other hand, in places like the Carolinas or Montana, we sell the energy to the area’s existing utility who then sells it to the end user.
Being a “local solar” company means that we modify our distribution methods depending on the law of the land. Rather than trying to fit solar energy delivery into a one-size-fits-all approach, we focus on the ultimate goal of bringing clean energy to the greatest number of people in a way that is affordable, practical and appropriate to the existing regulatory environment. Our flexibility allows us to modify our methods to meet the needs of each local community in which we operate.
Local Solar Vs. Community Solar – What’s the Difference?
Another question we get from time to time when talking about local solar energy facts and information is, “How does ‘local solar’ differ from ‘community solar.’”
Basically, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, community solar is a term used to describe the various ways in which an individual or group can go about obtaining renewable energy. Some examples of these ways include:
• Individual homeowners investing in a utility developed renewables farm and then obtaining a return on that investment in the form of an on-bill credit.
• Residents of a condominium complex buying into a “Special Purpose Entity” in which they create a business in order to manage and fund a solar project.
• A renewables project owned by a non-profit and funded by donors rather than investors.
On the other hand, “local solar” is a phrase that Cypress Creek uses to describe our singular efforts at building and, in most cases, owning and operating small, utility scale solar farms whose energy delivery is kept within the region where it is produced. The primary difference between community and local is that we do not share project ownership with the eventual energy recipients, and we do not ask for or require any front-end investment on the part of the eventual energy user. We finance and build the projects ourselves through investment processes independent of the consumer and utility.
What Makes Local Solar A Great Idea?
We believe in the greatness of local solar because it is a method that makes solar available to the greatest number of people in a community at the lowest cost to those same people. The fact is that most people love the idea of solar, but they simply do not have an extra $20,000 lying around to pay out of pocket for a rooftop set up. Or, they want renewables, but do not have the roof orientation or even use enough energy to make the investment pay off individually in the long run. Or they’re simply too busy living their lives to research and investigate a community solar situation that’s right for them.
With the local solar model, the burden of responsibility and the costs of funding widespread renewables implementation is shifted off the shoulders of the average American energy user—and we believe that is a good thing. Local solar is one of the most financially and logistically practical methods of clean energy adoption—and it is one of the most profitable for each interested party. It is an entirely American idea whose time has come.
What Do You Think About Local Solar?
Do you have a local solar project in your region? Share your thoughts about it in the comments below. And thanks for reading!
Cypress Creek Renewables is the nation’s largest developer of utility scale solar developments.
Find out more about the people making it happen—visit the Cypress Creek Who We Are page, next.