" /> Community Solar Deployment on the Ground

Community Solar Deployment on the Ground

By Ben Hirsh

When I joined PowerMarket in June of 2021 as an MBA intern I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew I was joining a small and passionate team of like-minded people but I did not have a great sense of the reach of community solar. I spent a lot of time during my internship learning about the benefits of community solar and working with the operations team as we began supporting local municipal community solar programs.

To me, the biggest benefits of community solar as an individual are saving money on utility bills and supporting the renewable energy market. But what was amazing to see was how counties, cities, towns, and villages can see these same benefits as they look to implement sustainability programs in their communities. During my time with PowerMarket, we have begun working with a number of communities in this way. Each community is different, but they all share common goals. They see community solar as one step in their journey towards having a more sustainable community. Often these communities are taking advantage of state programs which provide them grants for other sustainability programs if they can get a certain number of residents subscribed to a project. For example, NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program gives points to communities who undertake specific ‘high-impact’ actions and provides grant funding for additional clean energy projects to communities who hit certain goals. PowerMarket has been awarded the opportunity to be these communities preferred community solar provider, and in turn, we are able to provide financial incentives to these towns, which the towns can then use in support of other sustainability initiatives.

I understood the economics of these benefits but was curious to see them in action. I recently joined our team’s kick-off meeting with the Village of West Winfield, New York. This community has less than 1000 residents, so when I say small, I really do mean small. The members of the community who were spearheading the community solar program were all in the meeting, and as they introduced themselves, they all expressed a passion for bringing about a sustainable future. They understand that community solar is just a small piece of a large equation, and they understand that their small community is a tiny puzzle piece in the climate crisis. Nevertheless, they are spending their time working on doing everything they can to bring about change in their community.

As the meeting went on, members of the town expressed frustration, hope, and excitement. Frustration that not everyone in their community understood the environmental benefits they were pursuing. Hope that we could help them create an economic message that would resonate with more community members. Excitement that community solar would be a great choice for the community. As they were going through their different emotions, I felt a sense of joy and sadness at the same time. It was—in a way—beautiful to see this group of town volunteers working incredibly hard to do everything in their power to help their small town see a better future. At the same time, it was difficult to understand why these folks, full well knowing that their actions would have a relatively small impact on global climate change, were going through so much trouble to pursue it.

The conclusion I came to, right or wrong, is that community solar is something tangible that anyone can do to help change the market for energy, something we desperately need. This town is just 1000 people, but if every town of just 1000 people thought like the Village of West Winfield, we would be taking massive steps in the right direction. Something we can all learn from the Village of West Winfield is that every little change matters.

I am proud to be a member of a team that is helping communities like this receive funding to become more sustainable. If you are a leader in your community, reach out to us at PowerMarket (info@powermarket.io) and we can work with you on a community-driven community solar program like we have done with Ulster County, Town of Queensbury, and of course, the Village of West Winfield. We can also help you connect with the right folks to assist you in capturing states incentives for communities to subscribe folks to a community solar project. We look forward to working with you on making these little changes that have a big impact.