When it comes to bringing solar energy projects to low- or middle-income communities in North Carolina, nobody has quite been able to figure out a method that makes immediate financial sense, until now. Roanoke Electric Cooperative, the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) and Strata Solar are collaborating to make community solar projects feasible for lower-income customers.
With Earth Day just around the corner, Roanoke Electric is launching its new SolarShare program for its 500 kW community solar project built in 2015 in Bertie County, N.C. The program, now known as Roanoke SolarShare, removes physical and financial access barriers faced by many in the rural communities within the co-op’s service territory, making the benefits of solar electricity available to those who would otherwise be excluded.
Through Roanoke SolarShare, the co-op plans to fill the remaining subscriptions to its community solar garden, built adjacent to Roanoke Electric’s headquarters in Aulander, N.C. Through joint sponsorship, Strata Solar and Roanoke Electric donated $20,000, which will cover about five of the subscription blocks available. This will allow Roanoke Electric to select deserving families or individuals, who will incur no upfront costs, for solar energy credits on their future utility bills, through the end of the project in 2034.
It all started with a workshop held by NCCETC and sponsored by a U.S. Department of Energy grant, where Strata participated to learn more about clean energy initiatives aimed at low-income communities, and the need to devise a strategy became abundantly clear.
“This was a true collaboration among like-minded groups who knew that working together, we could find a way to make it work” said David Scoglio, CFO at Strata.
Anne Tazewell, Special Projects Manager at the NCCETC said, “We were already providing technical assistance to Roanoke, and when we learned they wanted to carve out subscriptions for low-income residents, we saw an opportunity to help.”
“Our goal is to fill all 30 subscriptions in the program,” said Roanoke Electric Cooperative Chief Operating Officer Marshall Cherry, “and this contribution has given us a tremendous jumpstart toward meeting that goal. We encourage others to follow Strata’s lead as we continue seeking sponsorships and offering our member-owners the opportunity to subscribe to Roanoke SolarShare and reap the program benefits.”
“This is a great example of how solar developers and utilities can work together to combat energy poverty for low-income residents,” said Scoglio. “We hope to see more of these partnerships in the future, leveraging the available resources through our shared values in renewable energy and accessibility.”
The groups will celebrate with an Earth Day themed launch event in Roanoke on Friday, April 20th.