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Community Solar Program

Community Solar Program

Solar CommunityBuilding a Community

Community Solar Program Background

OPPD’s mission is to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services to its customers. 

By the end of 2017, 30% of the energy for retail sale to OPPD customers came from renewables – mostly wind power. With projected wind developments, that percentage could reach 50% in a few short years.

OPPD customers have also shown an increased interest in solar power, specifically a larger scale, utility-run community solar program. Community solar is a solar power installation that provides shared benefits to participating community members. Community solar helps public power utilities to offer a valuable service to customers who are seeking renewable power, but lack the financial means to buy or lease rooftop solar panels, have rooftops on which they cannot install solar panels, or may be renters.

Community solar programs can offer a maintenance-free, low-risk benefit to customers who are interested in increasing their use of renewable energy. In early 2017, OPPD formed a project team to research the feasibility of such a program.

The project team wanted to understand how best to design each program component, including:

  1. Program size. How large should the program be, based on potential customer demand?
  2. Program location. Where should the program be located, based on size, availability and customer desires?
  3. Contract length. What length would be reasonable to participants, while mitigating risk for OPPD?
  4. Cost to participate. What should pricing look like for participants?
  5. Portability. Should program participation be transferrable within OPPD’s service territory?
  6. Scalability. How could OPPD structure a program that avoids cost shifting to non-participants and is scalable for the future?
  7. Ease of understanding. How does OPPD design a program that is easy for customers to understand?

Our Research Approach

To help answer these questions, OPPD engaged customers to gain additional insight and feedback.

Advocate stakeholder meetings
In 2017, OPPD held three stakeholder meetings with organizations interested in and advocating for community solar. Workshop findings confirmed a desire for a simple, transparent program available to all customers. Meeting participants noted that within their respective organizations, customer demand would be high, and education about the program would be critical. Additionally, the participants did not indicate a clear preference on program size or location.  

Online research
OPPD also engaged its customer Power Panel, an online community representing a cross-section of customers, in both qualitative and quantitative research. 

Qualitative research indicated that customers who identified as environmental advocates and/or had higher levels of income expressed greater interest in participating in a community program. 

Quantitative research indicated that, overall, customers would prefer a “pay-as-you-go” or monthly fee model, as opposed to paying a one-time fixed cost to participate. Participants also confirmed that program location was not critical. Additionally, of those surveyed, 53% felt only program participants should fund the program, and 38% felt all customers, regardless of their participation in the program, should fund it. 

Proposed Program Highlights

OPPD’s proposed community solar program* would require minimal up-front investment from participants and a relatively short commitment length. Proposed program highlights include:  

~  A “pay-as-you-go” or monthly billing model for all customer classes
~  No upfront investments, other than a one-time refundable deposit 
~  Participants’ monthly solar charge would be calculated on energy usage, level of participation in the program, the cost of the project and the market value of solar. (See below for more detail)

~  Deposit refunded after surpassing the contract length
~  Deposit forfeited if participant leaves program prior to contract fulfillment
~  If participant moves within the OPPD service territory, they may maintain their contract

Participation levels
~  Participants may choose to offset between 10% - 50% of their energy usage
~  When combined with OPPD’s existing and planned wind resources, the program would allow participants in the future to achieve an approximate ‘100% renewable’ portfolio on an annual basis

 Requests for proposal from solar developers include sites in Bellevue, Fort Calhoun and Gretna.

*Once approved by OPPD’s Board of Directors, OPPD will finalize program details and post specifics on timing and signups at

How a participant’s monthly, solar charge would be calculated

OPPD’s proposed community solar program includes a proposed solar rate rider, to calculate a participant’s monthly community solar charge.

Here is how the program would work:
When enrolling in the program, a participant would choose the percentage of energy usage they would like to offset with solar energy. A participant could choose to offset between 10-50 percent of their energy usage. A customer with average kWh usage could expect an increase anywhere from 3 percent (to offset 10 percent of energy usage) up to 17 percent (to offset 50 percent of their energy usage). 

Let’s use an example of a residential participant who offsets at 10 percent. When they receive their monthly bill, their total charge will include:  

Solar Rates Graphic 003

How the proposed solar rate rider would work
The proposed solar rate rider would use a market-based approach, meaning that calculations would be based on the value expected to be received if all energy from the community solar facility were sold into the Southwest Power Pool market. In addition to the market-based approach, only program participants pay for the costs or receive the benefits of the program. A market-based approach also ensures that the program remains scalable and can grow to meet future needs.

The solar rate rider would include two primary elements:

  1. Project construction and interconnection costs. This would include the cost of the Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) and connection to the electrical grid.
  2. A market-based solar credit. OPPD would credit participants with the expected value received if all energy from the community solar facility were sold into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) marketplace. OPPD would also credit the generation capacity in the same manner in which OPPD would receive credit from SPP and the value of that credit will be based upon the annual levelized value of OPPD's next marginal generation capacity as calculated in OPPD's integrated Resource Plan (IRP). These factors, along with the participant’s solar energy usage percentage, would determine total credit dollars on a monthly bill.

Additional Resources and FAQs

February 2018 Board Presentation
December 2017 Board Presentation


Send Us Your Comments

Provide your comments online and let us know your thoughts about the Community Solar Program.