In the United States, community distributed solar has been highly successful when implemented; yet the country is stages behind leading users of solar such as Germany and Denmark. Distributed solar has generated income for owners of panels and developed into a sustainable energy model for those who can afford the initial cost. Many communities have explored different business models for implementing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system and have a wide range of reasons for desiring solar energy, such as the economic benefits of income and employment that are created and the positive environmental impacts and reduced emissions that are associated with renewable energy sources. This project aims to identify successful strategies for implementing a community distributed solar system by examining case studies from communities worldwide, with special attention to state and federal incentives for solar practices. Variables in successfully implemented community solar energy systems include financial incentives from the state and federal governments, the involvement of the community in developing the system, and the financial plan for cost-recovery (return on investment). Through surveying residents in central Pennsylvania, this project also seeks to understand what factors motivate or inhibit adoption of household and community solar energy systems, such as economic, environmental, and social factors. Since 2011, the cost of PV system installation has dropped by more than 60% (Schneider and Sargent2014). This has made community solar more accessible to a wider range of communities with larger deviations in income. As the price continues to fall and the price of natural gas rises again, the market for community distributed solar may begin to flourish.
This research was first presented at the summer 2016 Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium. The research was funded by the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, with support from the Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment's Place Studies program.
Renewable energy, solar energy, renewable energy policy
©2016 Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment
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