As a part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative award, NRECA, through the Solar Utility Networks: Replicable Innovations In Solar Energy (SUNDA) program, is working with co-ops to spearhead a national initiative to make going solar cheaper, faster and easier for Americans in rural communities.
The Bottom Line: Through SUNDA, NRECA partnered with 17 co-ops, Power Secure, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange to develop, test, and deploy the “PV System Toolkit.”
• The Toolkit is a ready-to-use set of standard engineering designs, financing models, templates, tools and plans. This suite of materials offers best practices to reduce solar adoption costs and help co-ops across the country navigate the many ways in which they can integrate solar into their asset portfolios.
• SUNDA is also supporting the deployment of more than 23 megawatts of utility-scale photovoltaic in 15 states, while providing hundreds of rural communities with proven solutions to leverage the benefits of cost-competitive and reliable solar electricity generation.
• NRECA continues to work with co-ops across the country to deploy a variety of solar projects and business models that expand accessibility and meet the unique needs of each co-op.
• Since co-ops are nonprofit entities, they can’t take advantage of tax and accelerated depreciation incentives for solar projects. NRECA helped CFC, CoBank, and other private equity firms develop new offerings that allow co-ops to easily fund solar projects.
• In Texas, CoServ Electric, Corinth, installed a 2-MW system on a 16-acre peanut farm. Co-op members can purchase kilowatt-hour blocks of power from the site.
• In Georgia, Green Power Electric Membership Corp., Tucker, completed five systems in 2016, bringing 7.7 MW worth of community solar programs to communities throughout the state.
• Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp., Murfreesboro, installed a community solar system specifically designed to make solar affordable: members pay only $20 each month for the output of 5.5 solar panels.
• Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market, Tennessee, created an option for co-op members to donate electricity from the solar system to a local nonprofit while in Shallotte, North Carolina, distribution co-op Brunswick Electric Membership Corp. is adding storage technology to its 1.2 MW system in 2017 to boost the community’s resiliency.
Solar by the Numbers:
• By the end of 2017, the total solar energy capacity of America’s electric cooperatives will be five times what it was two years ago.
• This year, co-ops are on pace to add 480 MW of solar, which would bring their total capacity to 873 MW. This more than quadruples the 180 MW reached in 2015 and represents a 20-fold increase over the 37 MW capacity in 2010.
• In addition, over the last two years, cooperatives have expanded their solar footprint from 34 states to 44 states.
Credit: NRECA Business and Technology Strategies Unit, April 2017