Community Solar

Community Solar Gardens create access to solar for the vast majority of energy users who cannot currently get solar, either because:communitysolar

  • They rent their building/ rooftop
  • Their building does not have a structurally sound south-facing or flat roof
  • Their roof is too shaded by trees or buildings
  • They don’t have the financial resources or ability to access private financing to afford it.

Now with community solar gardens, solar is possible for anyone who pays an electric bill. As a cooperative, we’re keeping costs low, creating jobs for those who need them most, and ensuring community ownership and control.

Download a description of the Cooperative Energy Futures Approach to Community Solar

Our Approach to Community Solar:

We advance community control, local wealth building, and economic justice through community solar by:

  1. Non-Traditional Tax Equity Partners: Standard tax equity partners in renewable energy projects expect very high returns. This dramatically increase project costs and squeezes out most of the community benefit. We are engaging several alternative partners to harness tax benefits at a more reasonable rate.
  2. Workforce Development: We believe strongly in solar workforce development in low income communities and communities of color. We are currently partnering with Renewable NRG Partners to use our first community solar gardens as on-the-job training for North Minneapolis residents of color, and are eager to build partnerships with other training crews focused on engaging communities of color.
  3. Transparent, Democratic Operations: As a cooperative, our costs, revenues, business models, and decision-making will always be transparent to our subscribers. Our subscribers are our member-owners, who elect and run for the Board and share in any excess profits.
  4. Rooted Community Partnership: We are already working in partnership with a number of community groups in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Our current projects were identified at the request of local community partners, including neighborhood groups, community-based organizations, and congregations. We develop arrays based on the expressed interest of current and potential co-op members, and partner with communities to engage subscribers.
  5. Seeking Partnership for Low-Risk Repayment Methods for “pay-as-you-save” Community Solar: We have modeled community solar subscriptions that would be paid on a monthly basis at a lower cost than the electric savings. We are seeking local government, community development, and finance partners to make this viable so that everyone can afford solar.

We develop cooperatively owned community solar in the range of 200-250kW or 500-1,000kW in the following range of prices/ benefits:

Model: Full Array Subscribed Upfront ~50% of the array subscribed upfront, the rest monthly
Upfront Subscriptions Monthly Subscriptions
Upfront $ $350-$450/ 200W share ~$500/200W share $0
Annual $ $10-$15/ 200W share $0 Avg. $45/ 200 W share
Savings/yr Avg. $49/ 200 W share Avg. $47/ 200 W share Avg. $49/ 200 W share
Net benefits ~6-9% annual return ~6-9% annual return Avg. 10% cost savings/yr

Get Involved:

Join the Team: Please contact General Manager Timothy DenHerder-Thomas at, (612) 250-1621 if you are interested in joining future planning meetings.

Recommend a Host Site: If you know a potential location interested in serving as a host site of a community solar array, you can now collect site information and send a recommendation to CEF. Here’s how:

Join a Project: Specific sites and direct opportunities to subscribe are not yet available, but we are building a list of people interested in learning more and joining in community solar arrays. If you are interested in this model and might want to join in as a community solar owner, please sign up below!


In 2012, CEF began discussions with local commercial and non-profit energy users about hosting a community-owned solar array that would open up access to clean energy ownership. In 2013, we built experience with the process of working with major host sites and investors, and secured a 13kW commercial solar array that is financed independently so that the site hosting the panels does not have to pay for the system up front. This project is being installed in late 2014. These projects are a pilot for launching true community solar in 2015.

5 responses to “Community Solar”

  1. Ron Schlatter says :

    I would be interested in getting involved with this effort. I’ve rolled the idea of community PV ownership around in my head for years, and you are actually moving forward developing it. I’ve been teaching science in the Twin Cities for almost 20 years, working to inspire and illuminate a future generation, but I’m 57 and looking for opportunities to apply the ideas I have been talking about and help build some community PV networks. Let’s talk.

  2. Alternative Energy Sources says :

    Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
    You have done a extraordinary job!

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