The NC Clean Energy Technology (NCCETC) team recently reached one of many milestones with a pilot project that will expand the deployment of community solar projects across the Southeastern United States. The Fayetteville Public Works Commission (PWC), the largest municipal utility in North Carolina, recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for developers and / or contractors to design and construct the utility’s 1MW solar photovoltaic (PV) array, plus 500 kW storage project, as an outcome of the technical assistance provided by NCCETC.
The goal of the U.S. Department of Energy funded Community Solar for the Southeast project is to expand the deployment of solar projects across the southeast United States by spurring the development of community solar programs in the territory of cooperatives and municipal utilities. Community solar projects are ground-mounted PV systems that are generally smaller than other utility-scale solar projects. They are large enough to provide low-cost solar electricity, yet they are small enough to allow for flexibility of location, which allows the utility to leverage localized benefits.
The Public Works Commission Community Solar project is planning to begin construction by the start of the next fiscal year (July 2018), and will be among only 30 or so municipal utilities in the country, representing approximately 41MW of capacity, according to Smart Electric Power Alliance. The Community Solar project helps PWC to meet multiple objectives, including, compliance with the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), a customer demand for solar, and to balance sustainability with economics for the benefit of all stakeholders.
The NCCETC provided technical assistance with:
- Cost / benefit optimization for system size including PV and battery, configurations and development models
- Community Solar program design
- Outreach and Engagement including survey development and analysis
Information learned through this pilot is helping to inform the team’s understanding of the challenges experienced by municipal utilities and electric cooperatives in order to provide resources that support the addition of more community solar projects. The team has presented two webinars, and is currently conducting working groups to help identify barriers within specific topic areas and potentially provide solutions. Working group topics include: program design for community solar, policy considerations and the importance of getting local buy-in. In addition, the team is conducting a workshop with the goal to identify benefits, barriers and solutions to providing Community Solar options to Low Income Communities Served by Cooperative & Municipal Utilities’.
More information on the Community Solar for the Southeast project can be found here.