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SMUD-sponsored report looks at the promise and risks of community solar

From the January 13, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published January 13, 2014

Community solar projects offer an opportunity for public power utilities to improve the economics and equity of solar energy, but they also pose risks, according to a report by Jill K. Cliburn and Joe Bourg.

"Without careful oversight, a non-utility shared solar enterprise could open the door to a range of schemes that use the public grid for private gain, undermining the whole idea of community-owned, equitably managed public power utility," said Cliburn and Bourg.

The report, "An Introduction to Community Shared Solar Programs for Public Power Utilities," was prepared for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California, with support from APPA's Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments program (DEED).

SMUD pioneered community solar in 2008 with its Solar Shares program. The utility leased land to a private developer to construct a 1-MW photovoltaic project. Power produced at the project is fed to SMUD’s grid. Consumers were invited to purchase 1-kW shares in the project.

A single share in 2009 cost $21.50 per month. Customers who purchased a share were entitled to a monthly virtual net metering credit of (on average) $7, meaning customers spent on average $14 a month to participate in the program. Customers could enter and exit the program at any time. About 600 SMUD customers participate in the program.

The Cliburn and Bourg report discusses the SMUD Solar Shares program and similar programs at public power utilities in Oregon, Washington, Utah and Florida. The 47-page report, posted in the DEED Project Database, examines best and emerging practices for community solar.



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Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella

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