Community solar growth states

Which community solar markets are heating up?

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? 


Key takeaways


  • IL, ME, MN, MD, and NJ are five community solar states expecting substantial growth.
  • 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

The state of Illinois passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in September 2021. This legislation puts the state on track for a carbon-free power sector by 2045 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050. In addition to equity and electric transportation provisions, it also directly holds utilities accountable, and, important for community solar, increases funding for renewables. As part of this program, community solar funding will increase five-fold under the Illinois Shines initiative with specific provisions for low income residents. This means the number of community solar projects will greatly increase along with the number of subscribers. The program fully opened on December 14th of 2021.

Minnesota

The state of Minnesota currently has the largest number of programs in line for development out of any state and has the largest capacity of any state community solar program. Minnesota’s community solar program grew to 831 megawatts of operational capacity in April 2022. Since first starting the community solar program in the state, nearly all customers have seen some kind of financial benefit.

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.
  • Hawaii: As of April 2020, Hawaii is in the second phase of its community solar program, known as Community Based Renewable Energy (CBRE). There are many projects currently in development in the state including one in Lana’i that is expected to be completed by 2024 and meet most energy demands of the island.

Frequently asked questions about community solar

What states have community solar legislation?

Currently, 39 states have community solar projects, including Washington, D.C. Additionally, 22 states, including Washington, D.C., have policies that support community solar.

What is the catch with community solar?

There is no “catch” with community solar. Community solar programs are free to join because there is no purchase of solar panels involved and you are receiving credits from solar generated remotely.

Does California have community solar?

California has had Community solar since 2013 and is expected to produce more than 42 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy over the next 30 years.

Which utility has the largest community solar garden growth in the US?

Minnesota’s community solar garden initiative operated by Xcel Energy is the largest in the US despite economic issues and setbacks due to the pandemic.

What are the benefits of community solar?

Community solar helps you go solar and use renewable energy even if you do not own a home, helps you save monthly on your monthly bill and invest in local renewable energy projects.

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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About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry is an expert in all things solar! She's worked in the industry for more than 6 years, starting her career as an Energy Advisor dedicated to helping customers compare their options and make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

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