Can Solar Gardens Grow Jobs?

community-solar-gardenSolar gardens, pioneered in Colorado and now spreading across the county, are newly formed utilities that let customers buy into a solar array constructed elsewhere and receive credit on their electricity bills for the power their panels produce.

They’re trying this out in half of Massachusetts right now, according to a recent report in The New York Times. For developers, these shared solar arrays create a new market from the estimated 85 percent of residential customers who can neither own nor lease systems because their roofs are “physically unsuitable” for solar or because they are renters.

There’s no reason why economic development agencies in sunny states couldn’t take the same approach. They could create pre-certified, shovel-ready sites connected to low-cost power provided by regional solar arrays.

Massachusetts passed its law enabling community renewable energy projects in 2008; this was followed by a town solar garden in Brewster in 2012. Today, Clean Energy Collective, a leading developer, is building systems with hundreds of panels that are due to start producing power in MA by the end of this month.

New Jersey, with its highly successful utility-driven campaign for smaller-scale solar installations, proved that you don’t have to be located in the South or West to be number two in the nation in the amount of solar energy generated in a state.

You would think this might become contagious, since the Sun goes over everything.