Since 2014, BEF has helped over 30 utilities develop community scale, shared solar projects where utility customers are able to share in the costs and benefits of large solar projects. One such project was an innovative community solar project led by the Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO) in the San Juan Islands. With support from USDA, Spark NW, and the State of Washington, and its utility customers, OPALCO was able to pair a battery storage system with 504kW of solar capacity that will improve system reliability and extend the life of it’s subsea transmission lines.
Participating customers were able to receive discounts on their utility bills and most notably, 10% of the project was designed to support households with low-incomes to cover their utility expenses. This innovative approach was able to address many issues facing the utility, which is owned by its members.
What’s next for Community Solar
BEF will continue to support utilities and communities in their goals of developing community led renewable energy. These projects have the potential to address electricity system needs as well as wealth inequality.