Revisiting community wind through the lens of community solar

Revisiting community wind through the lens of community solar

June 08, 2023

In this webinar, Berkeley Lab researchers compare and contrast the community wind and community solar markets in the United States, with the goal of answering the following questions:

  1. Why did community wind fade in the U.S. while community solar has thrived?
  2. What lessons might community wind learn from community solar?
  3. Are there opportunities for community wind projects to participate in community solar programs across the U.S.? If so, what do the economics look like?

We find that the divergent fortunes of community wind and community solar in the U.S. stem from a variety of factors that can be broadly grouped into three main categories: timing, fundamental technology-related differences between wind and solar, and choice of business model (i.e., community ownership versus community offtake). We focus primarily on the third category—choice of business model—as the most-addressable difference between these two markets, and proceed to research opportunities for community wind to follow solar’s lead by adopting a community offtake model.

Our review of the twenty-two states that have established statewide community offtake programs (typically referred to as “community solar” programs) finds that wind is eligible to participate in at least ten of these states. We zoom in on four of these states to get a better sense for the mechanics of how those programs work and how much revenue would be available to a participating community wind project. We then compare this revenue availability to the typical revenue requirements of a community wind project, taking into account the restored, expanded, and new incentives available to such projects under the Inflation Reduction Act. This comparison reveals opportunities in a number of states for community wind projects to profitably participate alongside solar in these community offtake programs. Of course, challenges remain, and we conclude with a summary of the primary obstacles, along with thoughts about how to potentially address some of them.