A 1.25-megawatt community solar installation and attached solar are part of an ongoing research study to determine new ways to provide low- to middle-income residents with solar energy. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is spearheading a Department of Energy-funded study to find ways to make solar energy accessible to underserved communities.
The NRECA will run a three-year program titled Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources (ACESS) to look at means of financing and building programs to deliver renewable energy to low- to moderate-income homes. ACESS will also allow the NRECA to look at ways to engage communities and offer electric cooperatives the necessary tools for developing solar options.
The community solar installation involved in the study is operated by Orcas Power & Light. Much like the study is aimed at doing, the Orcas Power & Light developed the community solar project to break down barriers that prevented homeowners in Washington state from utilizing solar energy. Like many similar operations, the program provides households with a monthly credit on their utility bills in exchange for subscribing to the facility and partaking in energy generation.
Along with the community solar installation, a solar farm being built by Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, a 4-megawatt solar and storage system from Anza Electric Cooperative, and the SolarShare strategy from Roanoke Electric Cooperative are also part of the NRECA’s three-year study. Additionally, the study will include the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and BARC Electric Cooperative.
NRECA will receive support from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, which will provide funding options. GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that deals with tech and job training, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which will focus on the tech side of solar energy, will also aid the study.
According to senior VP of business and technology at NRECA, Jim Spiers, electric co-ops are largely responsible for serving the nation’s underserved communities. ACCESS will take what’s already been implemented to create solar development innovations to deliver more solar options to low- to middle-income residents.