Although solar deployment is expanding across the country, many people still lack access to solar due to high upfront costs and lack of information on financial incentives. Additionally, consumers are less likely to transition to solar if neighbors are not leading the way. This solar contagion phenomenon occurs in communities regardless of income levels or population density. States could capitalize on this “neighborhood effect” to increase demand and access to solar by establishing a group purchasing program.
Connecticut has created Solarize programs that allow communities to buy solar in bulk at a discount rate. These programs give communities access to pre-negotiated, tiered group purchasing plans. As more community-members sign up, prices fall. The program has spread to dozens of communities that may not have had access to solar without the Solarize program.
With minimal administrative costs, states could create or designate a state agency or a nonprofit to manage a similar program. The managing entity could facilitate competitive contractor selection to establish discounted pricing packages for participating communities, develop outreach materials, and work closely with communities to enroll customers. By creating group purchasing opportunities, states would increase access to solar and boost distributed generation capacity.