ULI Washington News

Innovation Update: Sharing Power: Doing Well by Doing Good in the District with Community Solar

If you have a rooftop or a parking lot in DC, you could add revenue-generating potential to your existing property while sharing affordable clean power with your neighbors.

Description of Groundswell Community Power:
All of us who live and work in the local community that is Washington DC enjoy some of the nation’s most forward-looking clean energy policies and incentives, including a community solar law that was implemented last year. Community solar enables DC businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity generated by small-scale solar arrays located anywhere in the District instead of having to install panels on their own roof. It’s an important consumer-focused innovation because it opens up the solar market to renters. Community solar is also an important real estate innovation because it creates new revenue opportunities for property owners that can also provide affordable clean energy to your neighbors.

groundswell-1Groundswell is a DC-based 501c3 nonprofit that offers a community solar program that enables local property owners including places of worship, nonprofits, and businesses to install community solar arrays that produce power for the neighborhood. Organizations that host a community solar site receive a lease payment from the project. In addition, for every two to three families who choose to purchase solar energy generated on your property, Groundswell shares power at no cost with a low income family. More than half of DC families living in poverty are paying $1200 per year or more for electricity, so the ability to help them transform energy costs into household savings makes a big difference.

Here’s how it works. As a nonprofit solar developer, Groundswell assesses your property for its solar potential, and if the solar potential is good, we sign a lease with you to deploy community solar on your property. As a site host, you get a lease payment, a beautiful solar rooftop or parking lot canopy, and access to clean energy for your own electricity needs while extending affordable clean power DC households that are struggling with high utility bills. It’s a wonderful way to do well by doing good.

Why is it transformative for real estate?
For property owners and developers, community solar creates a targeted opportunity to add revenue-generating potential to existing structures and provide an added community benefit for new buildings. Solar projects provide recurring lease or other structured cash payments to property owners for the use of space that is often not fully utilized for income, including rooftops and parking lots. The District’s strong financial and policy incentives related to its sustainability plan, net metering legislation, and renewable portfolio standard have created an environment where long-term stable cash flows can, under the right circumstances, be guaranteed for many larger existing property holders, including churches, low-income housing providers, and other community-based organizations as well as private sector real estate companies.

If you own a building but your tenants pay for electricity, so solar didn’t make sense before, community solar is worth a look. If you own parking lots, community solar can add a beautiful canopy that creates revenue and shade. If you own multifamily buildings, community solar can enable you to add solar as an amenity that can increase absorption rates while sustaining families struggling with affordability. And if you have bold corporate social responsibility goals, sharing power through community solar delivers for the triple bottom line.

Michelle Moore
CEO, Groundswell

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