Community solar projects and their economic benefits – lesson’s from Ohio State

 

  • USA Ohio state representatives James M. Hoops (R-Napoleon) and Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) introduced legislation HB 197, a bill that will kickstart the community solar market in Ohio under a pilot program.

HB 197 and other Ohio solar initiatives have gained momentum in part due to Governor Mike DeWine administration’s support of the economic benefits that in-state manufactured solar panels can bring to the Midwestern state. 

“Our state is primed for community solar and all its economic benefits,” said Representative Hoops. “This new bill will ensure that projects across the state can generate clean energy, ratepayer savings, and local jobs in a fast-growing solar manufacturing industry right here in Ohio.” 

Related news: South Africa’s state owned energy utility, Eskom, blocks 4.26MW community solar project

Community solar projects are small generation installations of solar arrays typically below 5 MW of capacity, sited on brownfields, industrial sites, and other preferred areas in proximity to electric customers they’re intended to serve, including households, small businesses, and public institutions.   

“Ohioans want jobs and the power to choose where their energy comes from. This bill brings both of those things plus more to our state,” said Representative Ray. 

HB 197 is expected to advance Ohio’s energy security goals while increasing economic revenue.  

First, the bill establishes a pilot program that will consist of 1.5 GW of community solar, enough energy to power almost 300,000 homes. Subscribers to any community solar program will be eligible for a bill credit, usually equal to 10% to 20% savings, from their utility provider for their proportional amount of energy generated from the community solar facility.  

Second, the bill would make community solar developed on brownfield sites eligible to receive grants to help cover costs associated with site preparation and construction. A working group will bring electric distribution utilities, consumers, and community solar industry representatives together to engage in proactive conversation to ensure the pilot program operates smoothly.

“Ohio has the potential to lead the region in community solar, but past legislation did not create ample opportunities,” said Carlo Cavallaro, Midwest regional director at the Coalition for Community Solar Association. “This bill, in its establishment of a pilot program, would generate energy across the entire state — bringing residents bill savings and the state billions in economic development and millions in local tax revenue.” 

To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have established community solar platforms from pilot stage to statewide implementation. Most recently, Maryland passed community solar legislation HB 908, making it the 23rd community solar market.  

Additional states that currently have bipartisan or Republican-sponsored community solar bills that could become law include New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  

A cumulative 5.6 GW of community solar generation capacity has been installed in the U.S., and Wood Mackenzie’s most recent community solar market outlook predicts that there will be 6.2 GW power installed across the country by the end of the year. 

Ohio currently has over 927 MW of solar installed, ranking 26th in the country, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Solar provides 0.9% of Ohio’s electricity, but that is expected to change, as SEIA’s projection is that 8.25 GW of solar will be installed over the next five years.

In addition to a growing solar industry, the Buckeye State is home to several manufacturers of solar products including thin-film manufacturer First Solar, racking manufacturer Applied Energy Technologies (AET) and glass supplier Glasstech.

Author: Michael Schoeck

This article was originally published in pv magazine and is republished with permission.

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