SMUD can use community solar to satisfy California mandate of solar on all new homes

This week, SMUD lauded the
California Energy Commission’s (CEC) approval of its Neighborhood SolarShares
program for the 2019 Building Standards, which requires all new low-rise
residential homes under three stories high to be built with solar starting in

The SolarShares program provides
solar to new developments through an off-site solar project, like a community
solar plan.

The 2019 Building Standards
include provisions for developers to meet the mandate for solar energy on all
new low-rise residential buildings through a community solar compliance option
or rooftop solar and SMUD’s Neighborhood SolarShares program is intended to
provide a compliance option to the new home marketplace.  The program
includes a 20-year agreement with the developer where SMUD provides solar
energy to customers from solar arrays connected to the grid within SMUD’s
service territory.

Occupants of the homes must
participate in the program until the 20-year term is over and will receive an
annual net benefit of about $10 per kilowatt (kW) per year. SMUD will
collaborate with builders to offer either community solar or rooftop solar at
the point of purchase.

SMUD will use its 13-MW Wildflower
project located in Rio Linda for the program and said that all additional
resources will be 20 MW or less.

Collectively, SMUD’s
SolarShares offerings comprise the largest utility green pricing community
solar program of its kind in the nation, it said.

“We are thankful that the CEC
saw the benefits that community solar programs can provide and are excited to
launch this first-of-its-kind program,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen

“This program provides options
to builders and a net benefit to potential homebuyers, all while providing
clean power to our community. The state of California and the Sacramento region
are facing an affordable housing crisis and our low-cost solar option provides
a valuable tool to lower the construction costs of new homes while supporting
carbon reduction goals.”

SMUD said that the benefits of
SMUD’s Neighborhood SolarShares program include:

  • Removing the long-term maintenance and replacement
    cost risks of rooftop solar.
  • Allowing for “tree-friendly” developments—
    keeping the canopy, while increasing shade, and reducing energy usage for home
  • Guaranteed monthly solar energy for 20 years,
    even during rainy periods or cloudy weather that does not deteriorate over time
    like output from rooftop solar systems.

The utility said that community
solar systems are more economical because they deliver more energy per dollar
spent on the generation system — effectively maximizing a community’s clean
energy investment. It added that they can be oriented to provide more solar
energy at times when the solar energy is more valuable.

Although this program is a
first-of-its-kind for developers, SMUD has provided SolarShares programs for
existing customers for many years.

Today, SMUD’s energy portfolio
is on average 50 percent carbon free and will grow to 80 percent carbon free by

“We have a strong commitment to
solar energy and intend to continue to build our portfolio of renewable energy
sources so we can meet our carbon reduction goals. In order to meet those
aggressive goals, we must utilize all available options, and this is just one
complementary option to rooftop solar,” said Orchard.

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