The advent of wind and solar energy means that energy can be generated nearly anywhere for a small up-front investment, and that energy will continue to flow free of cost for decades without any further effort. The implications of this technology are revolutionary, opening the door to multiple energy generation models, including decentralized rooftop solar systems, microgrids and community solar subscription models.
Anyone with a building or some land can install solar panels, the cheapest form of renewable energy. Solar panels can be tied to a distribution grid for backup energy or attached to battery storage for an entirely self-sufficient system. All over the world people who never had access to electricity are now benefitting from small and large solar arrays that generate free energy day after day. Ranging from simple systems set up to turn on a light or open a gate, to larger battery or grid-tied home or business solar systems, so called rooftop solar can save land owners significant money and provide reliable energy independent from a utility.
New neighborhoods, small communities and isolated end-of-line developments can opt to create a microgrid to generate, distribute and store energy for local use with or without connection to a wider transmission system. Communities like Babcock Ranch in Florida and Borrego Springs in CA have proven that micro-grids can protect communities from high energy costs and disruption during natural disasters, and even serve as havens for first responders and refugees when grid-tied systems are affected.
Community Solar Arrays
Community solar is different from rooftop solar and micro-grids in that it can benefit those who don't own their homes or who don't have a property suitable for solar energy. Instead a Community Solar company or co-op builds a solar array and customers subscribe for access to the energy generated. While the energy is still delivered through existing distribution lines, the energy is generated outside of the existing private utility system. In New Mexico the Community Solar Act authorized 200MW of community solar generation and subsequent rulemaking and a bidding process were recently completed. Community solar subscriptions should become available for subscribers in 2024.