The Emergence and Growth of Community Solar

The Emergence and Growth of Community Solar

After 10 years, Solar Industry magazine published its final print issue this month. To mark the occasion, the editors asked CEC Founder and CEO Paul Spencer to write an article on how the community solar industry has evolved over the past 10 years.


Here’s an excerpt from Paul’s article, ‘The Emergence and Growth of Community Solar’:


From an industry lifecycle perspective, we expected the evolution of community solar to be relatively fast. From introducing a new model of distributed generation designed to serve an expanding market vastly larger than rooftop solar could address, to attaining effective scale through ubiquitous utility and consumer participation, we projected a steep curve and an apex extending into the next few decades and beyond.


Community solar has indeed come a long way in a very short period, serving as a source of both excitement and challenge for the myriad participants that have taken a stake in its surging growth. Ten years ago, community solar was barely an idea, far from a robust business model. A few local community groups and rural utilities experimented with small-scale shared energy, but nothing worthy of exporting across markets, utility types and regulatory structures. Jump to today, and community solar is one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. solar industry, with more than 100 programs in 26 states and more than one-third of the country (18 states) with legislation enabling shared solar. It has gained a significant foothold in the U.S. solar market, and all signs indicate the momentum will continue accelerating.


An image of a CEC community solar array installation

Pictured: A recent community solar array installation.


Yet, community solar’s rise and maturation has also proven slower, or at least more gradual, than what Clean Energy Collective (CEC), at the time a solar start-up in western Colorado, envisioned in 2009 while designing what was considered one of the nation’s first community-owned solar models. The process has proven complex, the number of players limited, and enabling legislative and regulatory development slow and cautious.


But time and tenacity, as they do, have illuminated the path forward. We have reached a point where we know what works with regard to financial structures, project size, customer participation, legislative parameters, and finance. The focus has shifted to implementing each of them in a way that will allow the market to address the 100 million customers that can benefit from community solar.


Click here to read the complete article at