Declining prices for solar equipment and generous government incentives have broadened the appeal of community solar gardens. Community solar gardens, which are arrangements in which multiple users invest in and benefit from a solar array, provide a simple and cost-effective means for power consumers to acquire clean energy without having to bear the entire cost of purchasing or leasing a solar array. According to GTM Research, the community solar market is forecasted to grow fivefold in 2015.
For a variety of reasons, most energy consumers cannot own or lease a solar array—for example, they may not control the rights to their roof or their roof may be physically unsuitable. Community solar gardens offer these consumers the opportunity to invest in an offsite, local solar array in exchange for reductions in their energy bills. This new model expands consumer access to solar energy while also conferring a host of ancillary benefits.
This alert outlines the foundation of community solar gardens and describes their main legal considerations. While this alert cannot describe all the legal issues of community solar gardens nationwide, it covers common federal and state law issues that individuals involved with community solar gardens should anticipate.