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Grid logjams are crushing community solar

Community solar installed capacity
Data: Wood Mackenzie ; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

New community solar projects to power local neighborhoods and businesses plummeted 16% last year as grid connection delays stretched ever longer.

Why it matters: That's a huge reversal from 2021, and the first real decline since community solar became a thing.

By the numbers: Developers brought about 1 GW of community solar projects online in 2022, per a report this week from Wood Mackenzie.

  • That's down from nearly 1.2 GW in 2021.

Catch up fast: Community solar projects enable local residents or businesses to subscribe to electricity generated offsite. The projects are typically less than 5 MW in capacity.

Context: Community solar saw relatively rapid growth since 2019 as policies encouraged more of these smaller projects.

  • New installations jumped 40% in 2020 and another 33% in 2021. Those are from small bases — but they underscore the magnitude of the decline last year.

What's happening: Renewables projects are getting hammered by years-long interconnection queues. Community solar is no exception.

  • The number of projects waiting to connect to the grid in 2021 exceeded the country's entire existing capacity.
  • Grid connection costs for wind, solar and battery storage has doubled — and in some cases jumped by as much as 8x.

What we're watching: The experts at WoodMac say community solar will rebound — if grid operators and regulators clear the interconnection logjam.

  • "Some states have plans or proposals in place to help alleviate these backlogs, but there remains uncertainty around how and when we could see these clear up," the consulting firm tells Axios.
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