Are utilities co-opting community solar? Critics question term’s use

In Omaha, critics say the public utility’s community solar offering doesn’t share enough benefits with participants.

Last month, Omaha’s public utility unveiled details for a program that will help customers buy solar power without having to install their own panels.

Omaha Public Power District’s community solar program follows a year of stakeholder meetings, but some critics say it’s a stretch to call it “community solar” because participants won’t share enough of the financial benefits.

“It’s not really community solar,” said Don Preister, a customer who recently put solar panels on his home. A true community solar program, in his view, would mean, “I own shares in the system, I get the offset, I get the tax advantages… I don’t just subscribe to a system by a utility. I’m an investor, an owner, and have a say in the process and get the direct benefits as they occur.”