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5 Community Solar Projects Are Coming To Disadvantaged Communities In California

Nearly 10 years ago in California, an assembly bill (AB327) was enacted to direct the California Public Utilities Commission to develop alternatives designed to increase the adoption of renewable generation in disadvantaged communities (DACs).

Almost 5 years later, they came up with three programs to increase access to solar for residents of disadvantaged communities. The three programs that were created are the Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH), Disadvantaged Communities – Green Tariff (DAC-GT), and Community Solar Green Tariff (CS-GT).

The Community Solar Green Tariff (CS-GT) enables residential customers in DACs who may be unable to install solar on their roof to benefit from a local solar project and receive a 20% discount on their bill. The solar is usually installed by small-scale utility developers like Renewable Properties, which is based in San Francisco.

“Through these Green Tariff projects, Renewable Properties is bringing solar energy to communities that have historically been left out of the clean energy transition, while being disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change,” said Brian von Moos, chief development officer of Renewable Properties. “The projects will allow low-income families to save on their electricity bills, even if they can’t put solar on their own roof.” Residents who are eligible can enroll in the program to obtain 100% off-site solar electricity plus the 20% PG&E bill credit.

In California, to determine if an area meets the criteria for the development of community solar installations, they use CalEnviroScreen, which is a screening methodology that can be used to help identify California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution.

According to PV Magazine, the five projects will be located at East Cleveland Solar in Merced County, Avenue 26 Solar Phase I and Phase II in Madera County, Althea Avenue Solar in Fresno, and Canyon Road Solar in Merced County.

The East Cleveland Solar and Avenue 26 Solar Phase I and Phase II are expected to be finished by the end of this year with enough energy to power 2,853 homes combined per year and will offset 22,646 tons of CO2 annually combined.

The Althea Avenue Solar project is 7 MW, will be completed by September 2024, and will produce enough energy to power 1,182 homes per year and to offset 10,347 tons of CO2 annually.

The 7 MW Canyon Road Solar project will be completed by the end of the 2024 and will produce enough energy to power 1,310 homes per year and to offset 10,404 tons of CO2 annually. (None of these projects will include battery storage, but some could be added at a later date.)

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is now developing AB 2316, the Community Renewable Energy Act, which was just enacted in California. In order to remove access barriers for the nearly half of Californians who rent or have low incomes, the new law establishes a community renewable energy program that includes community solar-plus-storage.

It also encourages the integration of energy storage with community solar projects. The bill was approved just after California reduced rooftop solar subsidies, and at the same time, the federal government opened up funding through the IRA to support cleantech over the following ten years.

Community solar can be a great option for those who can’t put solar panels on their roofs because they don’t own their houses, don’t have enough sunlight due to shading throughout the day, their roof conditions won’t allow for a rooftop PV system, or for financial reasons. Community solar is a great way to enjoy clean solar power and a nice credit on your utility bill.

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