On May 20, Green Mountain Power (GMP) and NRG Residential Solar Solutions held a media event where they unveiled a new partnership to develop two community solar projects in Rutland, Vermont. GMP is a local utility that’s working to make Rutland the “solar capital of New England”. NRG Residential Solar Solutions is part of the NRG Energy family of companies, which is the largest owner of solar projects in the U.S. Recently expanding into the residential solar leasing market, NRG is now stepping into an even newer field; community solar.
The companies will develop two 150-kilowatt pilot community solar projects in Rutland as part of GMP’s Solar Capital initiative. In addition, NRG will establish an office in Rutland to support projects there. “Through this partnership, customers who have no space for solar or can’t afford to build it themselves will be able to rely on solar energy and support its construction through a low-cost lease program,” GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said. “Many participants are likely to pay less for solar energy than they are paying today on their electric bills.”
“We appreciate that GMP is actively exploring ways to make solar a vibrant energy source for the company and its customers. As we looked around the country for the optimal partner to create this pilot, the innovative spirit of GMP and the city of Rutland made them the perfect partner for this pilot program,” said Scott Fisher, director of alternative energy at NRG.
“Our goal is to use this pilot to create a solar community between 50 and 100 customers, whose enrollment will support the two projects we will initially build in Rutland,” Fisher explained. “We see this as a test case for new ways to bring the benefits of solar to more people.”
Under the pilot projects, GMP customers can enroll in the leasing program with no upfront costs, according to GMP. They will lease part of one of the two photovoltaic arrays that NRG is building. Then the amount of electricity generated by their portion of the array will offset part or all of their electric bills. The idea of community energy projects first took off in Europe in places like Germany and Denmark, where communities invested in wind projects. Community wind projects have also been installed in the U.S. in places like Minnesota, but the first community solar gardens started cropping up a few years ago and now are starting to take off in Colorado and other states.
The projects are pending approval by the Vermont Public Service Board. But, starting this summer, customers will be able to enroll in a NRG Residential Solar leasing program with no upfront cost and become part of a solar community that supports the development of specific solar projects, GMP said. The companies intend to build the first project this year and another next year.