New York activates first opt-out community solar program in the U.S.

The first community solar program in the U.S. to automatically enroll residents is now active in Western New York.

The community choice solar program has been made available to more than 3,800 households and small businesses in Brockport and Lima as part of Joule Community Power’s Finger Lakes Community Choice program. All eligible residents are automatically enrolled without having to take additional steps.

The municipalities have partnered with six community solar farms which, as they come online, will begin serving residents. The solar farms are expected to begin operation in October, with all residents being covered by Spring 2022.

The solar farms are expected to generate a combined 28 million kilowatt-hours annually.

“Our mission always has been and continues to rest on empowering municipalities to have a say in the origin of their energy supply. This groundbreaking program will benefit nearly every resident in Brockport and Lima,” said Jessica Stromback, CEO at Joule Assets.

Finger Lakes Community Choice also launched a community choice electric supply program, providing residents with 100% renewable energy from New York State run-of-river hydropower. Together, the programs are expected to avoid a combined 34,030 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year in pursuit of the state’s mandate to reach 70% renewables by 2030.

Stombrack said a proposal submitted by NYSERDA and National Grid — Expanded Solar for All — would threaten the future of opt-out community solar projects, which benefit a far greater number of low-to-moderate income residents.

“Community choice aggregation has long been our goal and through this partnership with Joule, we finally have a program that will benefit our residents with guaranteed savings and help New York reach its clean energy goals,” Lima Deputy Mayor John Wadach said in a press release. “The fact that our residents will be able to reap both financial and environmental benefits without having to take any action makes our efforts worthwhile. We hope that other municipalities will also have their voices heard and can offer similar programs to benefit their residents.”

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