New Program Takes Community Solar National with Out-of-State Buy-ins

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No community solar in your town? Not a problem. A Washington, D.C. based solar company says its taking community solar national.

About 80 percent of US households don’t qualify for solar on their rooftops because they are renters or their roofs don’t get enough sun, said Kiran Bhatraju, CEO, Arcadia Power. His company last week announced a new program that allows people to subscribe to a community solar program under which they can purchase shares in solar systems nationwide built by Arcadia.

“If you talk to folks in the rooftop solar industry, the number of people they have to turn away is huge due to shade or rentals,” he said. The company is focusing on this large group of customers

So far, solar enthusiasts appear to like the idea of making community solar national.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Bhatraju. “For the two small projects we beta tested in Washington, DC, we have a 3,000-person waiting list.” The interest comes from all over the country, including states like Georgia and North Carolina and other states that don’t have active solar rooftop markets, he said.

The program differs from a utility’s green power program because it allows customers to choose which solar project they want to purchase power from, Bhatraju said.

“The idea is to give you access to solar savings. If there is a local project, great, you are free to purchase from that project. We expect customers to choose projects anywhere in the country,” he said.

Under the program, people can buy into a solar project for as little as $100. Such a purchase is called a virtual power purchase agreement.

“If you are in Oregon and buy into project in DC,  we apply a bill credit onto your bill in Oregon,” Bhatraju explained.

Arcadia Power has developed software that provides utility bill credits for people across the country through hundreds of utilities, he said. About 80 percent of utilities in the US have agreed to participate in the program. The savings reaped by homeowners’ investment in solar can only come through the utility, said Bhatraju.

Arcadia’s first project is 250 kW and the company plans to add 2 MW of solar projects over the next quarter. Arcadia generally searches for solar sites in states that have good solar tariffs and renewable portfolio standards. Power from the company’s solar projects makes it to the grid via net metering or long-term power purchase agreements with utilities, said Bhatraju.

Arcadia does not guarantee savings, but because customers lock into 20-year agreements it’s expected that they’ll reap savings, said Bhatraju.

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“Solar is unique because you have returns over time. There’s an up front cost, and that’s what customers are helping us with when they subscribe to a panel. Over time the purchase pays off with additional savings,” he said.

For example, Arcadia has a beta project in Washington, D.C. in which customers bought into the project for as little as $100. That $100 investment is expected to provide $160 in bill savings over a 10- year period, said Bhatraju.

“The program is modular. You can buy into additional panels,” he said. “If you want to put solar on your roof, on the other hand, you have to come up with $30,000 or so.”

Arcadia is a national renewable energy company that provides, in addition to community solar, wind power for green power programs.

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