In January 2012, research group Environment California released a report highlighting the phenomenal growth of solar energy in the state of California. California, which is leading the nation in deployments, has installed just over 1,000 megawatts of solar power through 2011. While California is the standard-bearer for solar energy in the U.S., countries such as Germany have installed 17 times that amount, with 4,000 megawatts deployed in the month of December 2011 alone.
The good news is that, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), California has just begun to tap its potential for renewable energy. NREL estimates that existing buildings have the capacity to support up to 80,000 megawatts of rooftop solar systems. With ample rooftop space and surging energy demands, the potential to grow solar in California and beyond is significant. The question remains, however: how do we get there from here?
Financial innovations such as commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and expanded residential leasing options can help make solar more affordable for people who own their roof. For everybody else, a new kind of solar model is emerging: solar hosting.
Solar hosting provides another option for renters who don’t own a roof, as well as property owners with rooftops that aren’t ideal for solar due to technical limitations such as excess shading, lack of a proper southern orientation or having an uncertain roof replacement time horizon. Solar hosting also solves a problem for people reluctant to make long-term financial investments or individuals living or working in high-density, multi-story buildings that simply don’t have enough rooftop space to hold enough panels for everybody.
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