Published on March 6th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan0
Solar Hosting (Next Big Thing?)
Solar hosting helps bring solar power to renters.
Solar power is a great investment for homeowners in most places. You can get a great return on investment (ROI) in most cases. However, some poeple don’t have the money or credit needed to pop a solar roof on their house. Innovative programs and solar purchasing options, like PACE and solar leasing, have been popping up in recent years to help more people go solar. but this still leaves a huge segment of the population out… renters.
In many cases, homeowners who rent their property may not care to go solar. And even if renters do, what options have the got? This is something I (and several of our readers) have been thinking about for awhile. Well, solar hosting is one option popping up.
Simply put, by Lee Barken of Haskell & White, LLP and CleanTECH San Diego: “Solar hosting is a lot like web server hosting. If you don’t want to run your own server, you keep it in a co-location facility (sometimes called “the cloud”) and let somebody else take care of the network infrastructure and physical location management. Solar hosting works the same way. It lets you enjoy the benefit of solar panels, without having them physically located on your roof.“
Of course, the specific application of solar hosting can vary.
“Solar can be sold as a ‘service,’ which would be structured as a subscription. For example, you might ‘rent’ a panel or purchase a block of kilowatt-hours. Alternatively, it could involve a fractional ownership model structured as a co-op, where the members have an ownership stake in an entity that owns the land and produces power. Another possibility is an allocation as part of a larger property deed similar to how some condominiums include title to a detached parking space. The condo complex or master-planned community of the future could include a small plot of land to host your own solar panels as part of your ownership deed.”
Solar Hosting Leaders
U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo) championed a community solar gardens bill in Colorado in 2010. That has become law and a 6-MW pilot project is underway.
And now, of course, California is looking at a bill (SB843) on this topic. “This policy innovation would allow individuals to subscribe to or own solar generation assets on non-contiguous parcels and credit them back to their own utility bill. Details of the billing mechanism have not yet been finalized, such as the price at which the solar generation credit is applied back to an individual’s utility bill.” Additionally, San Diego Gas and Electric, a clean energy leader, has gone ahead and proposed a 10-MW pilot project.
Maryland has also introduced solar hosting legislation (SB595) in recent months.
Solar Hosting Not Just for Renters
Of course, solar hosting isn’t just for renters — it’s also helpful to others with unique limitations for installing solar themselves. Barken writes:
“Solar hosting provides another option for renters who don’t own a roof, as well as property owners with rooftops that aren’t ideal for solar due to technical limitations such as excess shading, lack of a proper southern orientation or having an uncertain roof replacement time horizon. Solar hosting also solves a problem for people reluctant to make long-term financial investments or individuals living or working in high-density, multi-story buildings that simply don’t have enough rooftop space to hold enough panels for everybody.”
Oh, the Possibilities…
Really, beyond the obvious, some carefully drafted legislation (and making people aware of their possibilities) could make solar projects everywhere much more useful — it could incentivize people maximizing the solar potential of their space.
Rather than simply build out each traditional solar installation to meet only the needs of that particular site’s electricity consumption, what if property owners were actually incentivized to utilize 100 percent of their physical space capacity for solar and sell the excess power to other people? If California establishes the proper financial incentive structures, it could give Germany a run for its money. Countless jobs and economic development opportunities hang in the balance.
Just like web servers enabled the transformational model of “cloud computing,” solar hosting opens up an entirely new market for renewable energy.
Image: Solar garden via 350.org