Community solar projects are among the fastest growing solar segments in the U.S with some estimates forecasting that community solar initiatives will be responsible for the addition of 500 MW (megawatts) of annual capacity by 2020. A recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) flagged community solar as the model most likely to dominate the solar landscape in the near future.
In answer to the growing demand for tools that will foster efficiency in this arena, the Clean Energy Collective (CEC) announced a software platform that will make community solar deployment easier for utilities and developers. CEC pioneered roofless community-shared solar, which works by generating power via mostly ground-mounted arrays and passing the savings to subscribed customers who receive billed credits on their monthly utility bills.
Community Solar Platform (CSP) is the name of a newly available SaaS platform developed by CEC, expressly for use by utilities and their development partners. Its purpose is to aid in the deployment of community solar programs by providing a software platform that can standardize facility management, perform system monitoring, and ensure accurate on-bill crediting for users. Additional CSP functionalities include customer acquisition tools, custom website hosting, and proposal and contract generation tools.
The CSP platform is driven by RemoteMeter, a proprietary software solution CEC has been using internally for the past five years, servicing 21 utilities across 10 states. Paul Spencer, founder and CEO of CEC, said his company is making the tool available to external parties due to indications of increased market growth and the need for turnkey solutions that will facilitate rapid implementation of community solar projects.
“That time is definitely now,” Spencer said. “We feel that utilities have passed the education phase of wanting to learn more about community solar and have moved into the actual buy-in phase.”
The CSP SaaS platform enables utilities and community solar developers to implement the programs on a wide scale, offering numerous components that can be acquired on an as-needed basis. “We are able to split apart our end-to-end solution to fill gaps that utilities and developers may have,” Spencer said. “That way they can pick and choose the services they need.”
Spencer said he believes predictions of rapid growth in community solar are vastly underestimated. “Clean Energy Collective has been growing anywhere between 300 to 500 percent year over year,” he said. “Based on the trajectory I’m seeing, I think growth will be far larger than is being forecasted.”
Lead image: Solar panels. Credit: Shutterstock.