Note to utilities: Here’s why 2015 is the ‘tipping point’ for community solar

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

With many utilities addressing the challenge of rooftop solar, community shared solar is fast emerging as an appetizing solar business model. A top solar research firm now says 2015 is the year that the community solar market breaks through.

A new market report forecasts community shared solar developers will grow 2014’s 65.9 MW of cumulative installed capacity to 465 MW by the end of 2016. A 59% annual growth rate for the sector over the next five years will take the 21 MW installed during 2014 to 534 MW installed during 2020, it predicts. “2015 is the tipping point year when community solar becomes a relevant sector in the broader U.S. solar opportunity,” said GTM Research Sr. Analyst Cory Honeyman, co-author of U.S. Community Solar Market Outlook 2015-2020.

Two key factors will drive the transition. First, the key states of Colorado, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and New York now have the kind of governing laws in place that give developers, utilities, and customers the confidence to buy in. Some 90% of installations in 2015 and 2016 will come from states with community solar legislation in place, the report forecasts, and 82% of that will come from the top four markets of Colorado, Minnesota, California, and Massachusetts. Second, community shared solar developers Clean Energy Collective (CEC) and SunShare have proven there are workable answers to questions about the business model. That is now bringing big, deeper-pocketed national players to the marketplace.

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