August 08, 2009

Communal Solar/Neighbors Sharing Energy Source

An article in Scientific American titled "Can Rooftop Solar Systems Serve Whole Neighborhoods?" prompts some interesting discussion.

"Collective bargaining is a good strategy when looking to get the best price on a given product or service. Solar power is no exception, and dozens of neighborhood-wide installations in the U.S. and Canada have created a new model whereby going solar can actually start to pencil out for individual homeowners.

One of the first neighborhood-wide solar installations in the world was at the master-planned community of Drake Landing in the town of Okotoks in Alberta, Canada. The entire community, now with more than 50 homes built and occupied, is heated by a neighborhood-wide “borehole thermal energy” system designed to store abundant solar energy underground during the summer and distribute it to each home as needed for space heating throughout the winter. The system, which launched in June 2007, now fulfills some 90 percent of each home’s space heating needs, with any slack taken up by fossil fuels.

While some planned communities like Drake Landing incorporated neighborhood solar power from the get-go, others decided it made sense after they were first built. One example is the deal that homeowners in Marin County, California can get in on, thanks to the hard work of the nonprofit GoSolarMarin. The group negotiated discounted group rates with several photovoltaic solar panel providers, and eventually signed on with SolarCity, a Silicon Valley based solar provider that operates some 30 different “community solar programs” across California, Arizona and Oregon.

GoSolarMarin was able to negotiate a rate some 25 percent lower than what a typical solar installation would cost for Marin County residents willing to participate. And best of all, homeowners can lease from SolarCity instead of having to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket to buy equipment that may become obsolete in a few years. SolarCity monitors all clients’ installations online to ensure that they are running at peak performance, and also makes house calls for maintenance as needed."

We know solar energy saves money. We know it can be shared in communities. What we don't know is why every community doesn't use solar power for the main source of energy.


Shadowthorne said...

My country, Malaysia which is situated right above the Equator line has so much sunshine all year round. Unfortunately we also have heavy rain here, also all year round.

So solar power is not really popular here. And most solar roof panel owners use the electricity for small things like heating the shower or boiling water.

We have rivers here. But only 15% of total energy is generated by hydro-dams. The rest, well, of course fossil fuel.

Margie said...

*We know solar energy saves money. We know it can be shared in communities. What we don't know is why every community doesn't use solar power for the main source of energy.

Well said!
And, very good post!
Thank you!


A Free Man said...

The problem with solar is convincing the powers that be to invest the money required to get it up and going. In the ACT they have a great rebate program for people who install solar panels on their roof and people who are generating solar energy also get rebates from their electricity bills. These are the kind of incentives that work.

We've got solar hot water, but it doesn't work very well in the winter.