What do COMMUNITY solar programs and virtual net metering have in common?

California State Assembly Bill SB843 and the HOPE for community solar programs.

Privately owned residential rooftop PV installations are alive and well in the United States. According to research conducted by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the capacity of traditional residential PV installations grew by 24% in 2011. Nevertheless, the residential solar model has some inherent physical drawbacks, thereby limiting the number of people who elect to purchase solar PV panels for their rooftop or land.  Hence, this article looks at what’s being done to improve the statistic.

Physical Impediments to Solar:

Homeowners must bolt solar modules to their rooftop, which naturally means that they need to have a suitable roof.  Cost of roof replacement alone can be a deal-killer.

Renters are a part of the solar demographic.  However, because many Landlords perceive they have nothing to gain by installing solar for their tenants, they push this populace out of enjoying the use of solar, as well.   

Homeowners who live on shady streets or have aesthetic and architectural problems with solar panels are also unable to participate in creating their own solar energy.

Alternatives to the Problem:  

Consumers who would otherwise purchase solar energy are often limited to buying Renewable Energy Credits through a grid utility company.  Here, they can choose which mix of energy they wish to purchase, thereby allowing them to “vote with their wallet” and having a say in which types of energy they prefer.   

There’s a NEW kid in town:  

Community Solar Programs are working to revolutionize, and to make more accessible, the choices consumers have in acquiring free power from the sun.  State Senator, Lois Wolk (D-5) sponsored SB 843, which would have allowed regular grid customers to access a virtual net-metered solar account from a shared solar project.

One such program is called Community Solar California.  CSC commissioned and pushed for SB 843’s passage, claiming that it would have provided a whopping 11,000 new jobs and a $7.1 billion dollar injection into California’s economy.  Additionally, CSC’s research claimed that the bill would have generated an additional $230 million in tax revenue, all this, and no additional taxpayer costs to support the program.   Even those consumers uninterested in solar energy were probably intrigued by the economic benefits of this draft.

While San Diego Gas & Electric formally voiced their support for a modified version of the bill, SB 843 was ultimately defeated in the California State Assembly. However, the upside is that support from that utility was originally seen as quite positive, which shows that utilities aren’t necessarily opposed to changing their ways.  Many solar energy analysts predict that the rest of the United States may follow California’s energy policy, citing that new bills could still be authored in other areas to encourage this sort of solar power development.


Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing solar brokering, brokerage, and solar energy consulting services in Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.  For more information, please visit

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