Community solar growth states

Which community solar markets are heating up?

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Historically, community solar has been the most popular–and most accessible–in four key states: Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New York. But excitingly, more and more states are jumping on the community solar bandwagon, and new projects continue to pop up each year.

So, what markets are heating up for community solar? And which states can we expect to take the plunge next? 

See community solar options in your area in 2021

Key takeaways


  • IL, ME, MD, and NJ are four relatively new community solar states expecting substantial growth soon.
  • A few states have recently passed community solar legislation, a trend that will continue.
  • Finding and subscribing to local community solar options is easy using EnergySage’s Community Solar Marketplace.

States with growing community solar markets

Thanks to a mixture of policy changes and lucrative incentives, these states are poised for community solar growth over the next few years:

Illinois

In 2016, the Prairie State passed its most climate-progressive legislation to date: the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). There were a lot of exciting developments that came out of this bill, including an updated renewable portfolio standard, expansion of the state’s energy efficiency programs, investments in clean energy job training, and a new solar incentive program known as Illinois Shines. And a huge element of that program? Community solar!

From a demand standpoint, the program was an overwhelming success: as of July 2021, capacity for both community solar projects and rooftop solar panel systems are full. They’re not maxed out, but there’s a sizable waitlist of community solar developers looking to take advantage of the program. Just take a look at the Illinois Power Agency’s Community Solar Dashboard to get an idea of the queue – there are more than 600 projects on it!

To date, the Illinois Power Agency has approved at least 215 megawatts (MW) of community solar capacity through this program – the large majority of which is not yet live. We can certainly expect Illinois to rise up in the community solar rankings as more and more of these planned projects become operational. Plus, if Illinois passes new solar legislation in the near future to keep up with the growing demand, it’ll be tough for other states to catch up.

Maine

Maine is not new to the community solar game; in fact, the state initially passed community solar legislation back in 2009. However, roofless solar never quite took off back then for a few reasons, including net metering caps and restrictions on project sizes.  

The tides began to turn in 2019 when legislators passed An Act to Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine, which combatted previous solar growth barriers in the state and paved the way for further development. Specifically, the bill raised community solar project caps from 650 kilowatts (kW) to 5 MW, allowing for larger scale solar farms. Even better, the bill directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to acquire 250 MW or shared distributed generation–aka community solar–capacity by July 2024.

Similar to Illinois, there are plenty of community solar projects planned for Maine, but most are not yet operational – these things take time to build, after all! But community solar subscription options are quickly becoming available for Mainers across the state.

New Jersey

New Jersey has always been an East Coast leader for rooftop solar, so it’s not too surprising that they are now making moves on the community solar side of things. 

In 2018, Governor Phil Murphy kicked things off with his signature of AB-3723/SB-2314, a bill that established the Garden State’s first community solar pilot program. The initial pilot included 45 separate community solar projects, totalling roughly 78 MW of capacity split between three of the state’s investor owned utility territories: Atlantic City Electric (ACE), Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L), and Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG). The first of these projects went live in 2021.

Now, the state is launching the second second year of the pilot program, and it has been met with high interest from community solar developers. This iteration has roughly doubled the allotted capacity, soliciting 150 MW worth of new community solar projects in the coming years. 

Maryland

Maryland first launched their community solar pilot program in 2017. Though there are a limited number of projects currently live in the state, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has set aside a program capacity of 418 MW – more than each of the three of the states we mentioned above to date! 

The program duration is seven years, and is scheduled to end in 2024. We’re excited to see what the Maryland community solar landscape looks like then!

Which states are up next for community solar?

Over the next five years, we can expect an increasing number of states to kick off community solar programs – some have already passed legislation to do so! Here are a couple of up and coming community solar states to keep an eye on:

  • Virginia: the Commonwealth enacted SB 629 back in 2020, which calls for the state to establish a community solar program in Dominion Energy territory. The program will initially have a cap of 150 MW, and should be ready to launch by 2023.

Start your community solar journey today with EnergySage

EnergySage is the nation’s leading online solar marketplace: using our Community Solar Marketplace, you can compare local options, get a quick community solar savings estimate, and seamlessly subscribe to an open project in your area. Over 10 million people come to EnergySage each year to learn about, shop for and invest in solar. Compare your community solar options today today to see how much solar can save you.

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See community solar options in your area in 2021

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