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Solar for the 75%

ImageBy definition, most of us are in the 99%. Some of us may even be in that mythical 47%. But there’s another group that many of us are in, without even being aware of it: the 75%. That’s the estimated number of people who can’t get solar on their roof.

While leases are helping far more people go solar than before, 75% of us are still left out of the equation. We may have shaded roofs, rent our homes, or live in multi-unit buildings. And these are just a few of the reasons preventing so many of us from going solar.

But don’t despair! There’s hope for the 75%, and plenty of it. The boom happening right now in community solar is making it possible for almost anyone to benefit from solar power. At a recent Community Solar Forum put on by Solar Sonoma County, the 75% became a theme as we learned about some of the options:

  • Community Choice Energy: Programs like Sonoma Clean Power andCleanPowerSF are enabling utility customers in some areas to buy their power from renewable sources.

Joy Hughes explains solar gardens to an audience of 60 attendees at the Community Solar Forum

  • Solar Gardens: Some states have laws that allow virtual net metering, which lets utility customers subscribe to solar power from an installation not on their own roof.
  • CLEAN programs, or feed-in tariffs: By promoting these programs, the Clean Coalition is working toward the goal for 2020 of 80% of all new electricity generation in the United States coming from renewable energy sources.
  • Co-ops: Energy co-ops like the San Francisco Energy Cooperative allow anyone to participate in solar for as little as $50. They hope to be a model for other co-ops around the country.

The speakers at the forum all had slightly different perspectives, and they were focused on different ways to bring solar to communities. But they all shared the goal of helping as many people as possible to participate in renewable energy — that is, reaching the 75%.

All of these ways to bring solar to the 75% are important and highly effective — and even affordable. Models like community choice energy, solar gardens, and CLEAN programs generally result in savings, especially over time. They bring a slew of other benefits, like cleaner air, local jobs, increased national security. So it’s crucial to support these efforts. Still, while a lot is happening already, some of these programs can take years to implement, and they aren’t yet available everywhere.

In the meantime, how do we get the word out to the 75% that there are options for them — for us — now?

For most people, that will mean an appeal to their pocketbook. Those with an active interest in supporting solar for altruistic reasons are a minority. But most people like the idea of saving money or getting a good return on an investment. If they can do good at the same time, that’s a nice benefit.

And now there are more ways to invest in solar and do well while doing good. Energy co-ops can already provide a return on small investments, and the JOBS Act should allow for larger investments in the near future. Other organizations use crowdfunding models where people can move from recouping their investment to receiving a return on that investment. For example, Mosaic allows people to invest in solar projects and get paid back from the clean energy produced.

There’s more coming, so stay tuned! Before long, we’ll have solar for the 75%.

What you can do now:

Content Discussion

Jonathan Cole's picture
Jonathan Cole on November 20, 2012

Some enterprising entrepreneur should start a business that allows people to rent their roofs for solar. Those with optimal large roof space appropriate for solar could receive compensation even if they do not have the capital resources to install it themselves.

 

Rosana Francescato's picture
Rosana Francescato on November 21, 2012

Jonathan, that's an interesting idea. Check out this article about it, from March: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/3/prweb9331518.htm. I don't know if this ever took off, and I wonder about legal restrictions to doing this. We need virtual net metering in more states to allow for arrangements like this one, which is akin to a solar garden -- where a host provides the site for the "garden" and others can subscribe to the power generated there.

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