Sharing the Sun: Community Solar in Ohio

Research Poster
Ruchie Pathak
Jeffrey Jacquet
School of Environment and Natural Resources

Community solar is considered an innovation in many energy systems because it allows users to take ownership in the energy they consume. In the United States, at present there are “42 states with at least one community solar project on-line, with 1,226 cumulative megawatts installed through Q2 2018” (SEIA, 2018). With several such community-owned and third party-owned projects in development stage, very little is known today regarding the development and social acceptance of community solar projects, especially for the state of Ohio. Thus, as an innovation, the diffusion of community solar projects in Ohio can be examined through the lens of diffusion of innovation (DOI) theory, which states that the adoption of an innovation is dependent on the characteristics of potential adopters, the attributes of the innovation and the setting where the diffusion takes place.
In this scenario, this exploratory research investigates the different reasons as to why a community adopts such renewable energy systems in order to clarify our understanding of the diffusion process. The research involves in-depth interviews with key informants, including the current managers of municipally owned/utility-owned solar projects, representatives from area businesses, industry, and community groups in three study sites located within Ohio. 
Our findings from this exploratory research suggests that it is indeed the local context of these communities that drives the groundwork and development of such renewable energy initiatives, with each of the three study sites having a distinct premise  contributing towards the establishment of its community solar program.