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Dec 28th, 2016 | By | Category: Articles, Economical Impact

By the end of 2015, U.S. renewable energy capacity from wind and solar power eclipsed 100,000 megawatts, with another year of historic growth. Despite its many advantages, however, community renewable energy has been a small fraction of this impressive figure. Below is part one of our Beyond Sharing Report, a report released in April 2016 about how community-owned renewable energy can capture renewables’ economic power. Be sure to come back and read parts two and three, published in the next week.

In this report, we talked about several forms of community renewable energy. Community-owned renewables are owned locally, by members of the community. Shared renewables may or may not be locally owned, but the community can share the output. Group purchasing involves collective action to purchase renewable energy, such as rooftop solar arrays, but the benefits accrue to the individuals who host the solar on their rooftops. Unlike traditional electricity generation, wind and solar are very compatible with the first criteria—community scale—because both wind and solar power plants are made up of several to several hundred modular power sources (turbines or panels). Distributing power generation from these sources is relatively easy and economical under the current rules for the electricity system, especially in comparison to the severe limitations on collective ownership. For wind power, the scale of most wind farms makes them expensive, and their remote location makes sharing electricity output with the typical policies nearly impossible. The result is that less than 5% of total installed wind power capacity was part of a community renewable energy project through 2010. Less than 3% of wind power capacity added since then has been community-owned (and none have shared output). For wind power, the lack of collective ownership in the U.S. may not come as a surprise, but it should. In Denmark, for example, wind turbines were legally required to be owned by electricity consumers. Danish wind projects are typically owned by several to several hundred landowners and farmers in “wind partnerships.” The result is that 20% of Denmark’s power comes from wind, and 85% of that is owned by the residents of Danish communities

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