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Community Solar

Innovating and unlocking the community-scale solar market.


What is Shine?

An initiative of nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, Shine focuses on unlocking a “sweet spot” in the U.S. clean-energy market: community-scale solar. Shine is developing innovative community-scale solar pilot projects—leveraging economies of scale, standardizing system design, developing business models that allow low-income customers to participate, and other levers—to make solar energy affordable and accessible for all.


Why Community-Scale Solar?

Solar PV in the United States has been growing impressively. By the end of 2015, the U.S. had more than 25 GW of installed solar PV capacity. Despite this growth, solar PV generated only 1% of U.S. electricity in 2015. Tremendous potential remains for solar PV’s future.

To date, solar’s growth in the U.S. has been concentrated in two market segments: 1) utility-scale solar and 2) behind-the-meter solar (i.e., residential rooftop and commercial). Of households that have gone solar, most are middle- and upper-income households. As a result, millions of homes and businesses are being left out of the solar revolution because they can’t go solar—whether for reasons of financing, renting their home or apartment, lack of a suitable roof for solar, or other factors. Community-scale solar can change that and provide affordable access.

Community-scale solar represents a substantial untapped third market segment. It sits in a “sweet spot” that leverages economies of scale of utility-scale solar and the community and distributed benefits of behind-the-meter solar.

Learn more in Shine’s March 2016 report, Community-Scale Solar: Why Developers and Buyers Should Focus on This High-Potential Market Segment.


Who is Community-Scale Solar For?

The community-scale solar market segment is potentially for everyone, especially:

  • Homes and businesses can go solar through shared solar subscriptions and other models.
  • Utilities—including municipal utilities, electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities—can invest in community-scale solar on behalf of their customers.
  • Community-based organizations can develop local shared solar projects that benefit their communities.
  • Solar developers can find great opportunity in this nascent market segment, which RMI estimates could reach 30 GW by 2020.
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