Why Are Rural Cooperatives Titling Towards Community-Scale Solar Energy?

Electric cooperatives or power cooperatives play a major role in the generation of power in most country sides and counties across the U.S. The rural electric cooperatives model has been replicated with success throughout the U.S. and in some other countries in North America. According to an article on Wikipedia, there are over 900 rural electric utility cooperatives in the U.S. alone and they play a pivotal role in the determination of power policies. This is why it is a big deal that rural cooperatives are tilting towards community-scale solar energy. According to a blog by RMI Outlet, out of these, 840 are distribution cooperatives and the remaining 60-65 are generation and transmission cooperatives. Together, they impact lives of an estimated 42 million Americans.

The buzzword at the moment among these extremely influential cooperatives is community-scale solar power and how it can improve the condition of the villages by saving money, reducing pollution and carbon footprint, diversify the energy portfolio and thus reduce dependence on fossil fuels and other conventional energy resources.

The biggest attraction for these cooperatives is the cost effectiveness of solar panels with falling PV prices, making solar projects competitive with conventional energy projects. There is a possibility that regulations like the RPS standard may become mandatory in the foreseeable future. These cooperatives want to take preemptive measures. If replacements have to be made wholesale suddenly, it would put tremendous pressure on the supply chain and distort the market. This would keep them ahead of the race.

Owners of these cooperatives are looking for economic rejuvenation and demanding a switch to clean, green energy and these cooperatives have no other alternative but to listen to them.

COMMUNITY-SCALE SOLAR POWER IS THE OVERWHELMING CHOICE FOR MOST RURAL COOPERATIVES

Many cooperatives are getting into long-term agreements with midscale solar PV arrays that are connected to distribution grids. Community-scale solar power generators are capable of producing power in the range of 0.5 Megawatt to 5 Megawatt. Getting into a Power Purchase Agreement with small utility-scale solar power generators which feed their production to distribution grids and subscribing to shared solar distribution grids are the preferred choices. This gives the rural electric cooperatives the power to leverage the economies of scale of these small utility-scale power generators.

BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY-SCALE SOLAR POWER FOR RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES

Creation of jobs and more local taxes: Community-scale solar power projects can generate more jobs for members of the local communities and also generate more taxes. This goes right back into the development work for the communities. Big utility power companies demand more revenue for their sustenance and the money expended doesn’t come back into the community economy. The job created and revenue generated improves the quality of local lives.

Minimize energy and line loss: Controlling community-scale solar power generation allows cooperatives to reduce wastage of energy passing through high extension wires as these community-scale solar PVs can be located adjacent to distribution grids; the lines are much smaller which reduce wastage of energy.

Autonomy: Rural cooperatives can increase their autonomy and self-reliance by switching to community-scale solar. It would reduce their dependence on utilities and generation and transmission companies as well as reduce bills.

It is only a matter of time before more and more rural electric co-ops opt for a community-scale solar model of energy generation. As more players enter this market and options increase, this space has the potential to expand at a phenomenal rate and transform the entire rural economy. The wheels have already been set in motion. Just a matter of time before it gains more momentum!

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NET ENERGY METERING 3.0 INFORMATION

Net Energy Metering 3.0 (NEM 3.0) is the incoming law created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The new tariffs and fees will impact both residential and commercial solar systems built in California. 

As this notice is posted in November of 2022, the Proposed Decision from the CPUC outlining the proposed NEM 3.0 terms is expected soon. This comes after a year’s delay. Once the new agreement is finalized and passed into law, there will exist a designation of the deadline under which new systems will continue to qualify for NEM 2.0 rates. 

The new NEM 3.0 rates will be designed to lower the value of electricity during the daytime hours, when solar is producing, and increase the value of electricity during the evening hours, when solar homes and businesses purchase electricity. In short, NEM 3.0 will create a “sell low, buy high” proposition to new solar system owners. 

To Californians looking to install a solar system on their home or commercial building, the NEM 2.0 rates will be preferred. As of this post, the solar industry does not know the details of how different the NEM 3.0 rates will be from the NEM 2.0 rates. 

Please use the HES Solar website as a resource to learn more, and please take our offer to speak with an HES Solar Energy Consultant at no obligation.

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Robert Laverty

Senior Energy Consultant, Residential

Robert Laverty joined the HES team in the summer of 2018, bringing his ten years of solar design experience and his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound with him. Robert is dedicated to finding solutions to help families produce and store electricity in order to reduce their reliance on grid power as well as help reduce their household’s carbon footprint. Robert’s experience as a newspaper editor as well as his involvement with the sustainability-focused Rocky Mountain Institute drives him to constantly seek out innovative ways to meet energy needs through renewable resources as well as helps him share those ideas with Southern California homeowners. When not at work or volunteering time with his church or community, Robert spends time with his wife and two sons or pursues his passion of fly fishing.
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