Washington, DC — Groundswell, a nonprofit whose mission is organizing community power, and clean energy financing experts Sustainable Capital Advisors have announced a new strategic partnership to develop an innovative approach to community solar financing that will take consumer credit scores off the table as an obstacle to joining the clean energy economy. This collaboration will help to fulfill the commitments each organization made at November’s White House Summit on community solar to convene five demonstration projects within 18 months and to deploy $25 million of private capital in order to finance community solar projects serving low and moderate income communities.
“Nearly 50% of Americans aren’t able to switch to solar because they don’t own their roof, don’t have a roof in the right location, or are struggling financially and can’t qualify for financing even if it could help lower their energy bill,” explained Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “We’re grateful to work with Sustainable Capital Advisors to pioneer a program that will work for all families by bringing community organizing together with community solar project finance.”
“Sustainable Capital Advisors creates innovative financing solutions for sustainable infrastructure that broadens the pool of participants while being replicable and scalable,” explained Founder and CEO Trenton Allen. “We’re committed to working with Groundswell to create economic opportunities in clean energy for low and moderate income communities that haven’t been able to participate before.”
Over the last decade, residential and commercial solar has moved from a niche market to a widely deployed distributed power solution with more than 784,000 active systems across the United States. While friendly regulatory environments, business model innovation, streamlined installation processes, and decreasing costs for equipment has made solar a good investment for many businesses and for homeowners with good credit ratings, affordable clean energy remains out of reach for more than 90 million Americans, including families that rent their homes and people with credit scores under 650. Overall, the National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that 49% of households and businesses can’t access rooftop solar.
Community solar can make solar energy accessible for everyone and build a more economically equitable clean energy economy. Using a community solar model, working families and small businesses can purchase subscriptions to a central solar array located within their utility territory – making it possible to switch to solar without having to install solar panels on the roof. Community solar can also create more distributed generation capacity for America that promotes greater reliability, resiliency, and sustainability across the grid.
Community solar is an emerging solution, and is currently a modest but growing part of America’s energy mix. In total, fewer than 150 projects have been implemented across the United States, including more than 40 located in Colorado alone. However, the market is projected to grow rapidly over the next five years. The National Renewable Energy Lab projects that the market for community solar has the potential to grow to nearly 10 gigawatts over the next five years. Under current market assumptions, that is an $8.2 to $16.3 billion investment opportunity that could represent nearly 50% of all distributed solar capacity in the United States.