Community energy projects do not necessarily have to revolve around utility-scale technologies. Small wind, solar and biogas technologies can be used in community energy projects through the various ways a community can cooperate on their purchasing, installation, financing, maintenance, etc.
A community, for example, can form a buying group or co-op in order to bulk purchase solar panels, hot water heaters, small wind turbines, biogas digesters etc. in order to secure a better price for everyone with the sellers and installers, as well as to negotiate a more cost effective operations and maintenance agreement.
The business plan
The business plan helps the new group to focus their project plan, consider timelines, fiancing, and documents the business case for their project. It will be used when the co-op offrs equity to the community in the form of shares or bonds. The business plan can be part of the membership agreement for recruiting new members.
The business plan is also a good tool to assess the cost and benefits of project so you know if and how much you will save on energy after project implementation. The plan might vary in its details, depending on location, the actual energy resources and the type and cost of technology you are using, as well as operational costs, such as salaries, etc.
Selection of Technology and Resource Assessment
The technology selection will be determined by a set of factors, including:
Energy goals: how much will be produced or is needed?
What type of energy will be produced (electricity and/or heat)?
Resource availability: what type of energy source is available (wind, hydropower, biomass...)?
Electricity Sales: net metering, power purchase agreement or standard offer contract
Subjective preferences for particular technologies within the community
Interconnection: grid-tied or off-grid installation
Technical skills and abilities in the community
General budget: how much can be spent now on development, staff, equipment and installation? Is there a plan for later expansion (i.e., addition of solar modules or additional turbines)?
Environmental impacts and requirements?
Vendor Selection and Contracting
Renewable energy requires unusual care and knowledge on the part of the buyer. One of the key recommendations for those looking to install a renewable energy system of any scale is: be knowledgeable!
The key issue is that lenders want to know that the risk they take in lending the money is shared with others, through shares or bonds purchased by the community