Community Solar Brings People Together to Help Birds

There are exciting opportunities to expand community solar to help protect birds from climate change

Here in the Great Lakes region, birds are beginning to respond to rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns driven by climate change. Two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction from climate change. We still have time to protect the majority of at-risk birds, but we need to expand renewable energy solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Community solar is an important part of the solution.  

Most people are familiar with rooftop solar, which allows homeowners to install solar panels on their rooftops, helping to save money on electricity bills. But not everyone owns their home, has a suitable rooftop, or can afford to install solar panels. Community solar offers a solution to address these barriers.  

Expanding Access to Solar, Bringing Communities Together to Tackle Climate Change

You may have driven by or flown over a solar project and seen areas of land filled with solar panels. Community solar allows multiple participants—residents, businesses, or organizations within a community—to pay for a share of the electricity generated from a nearby community solar project. Utility companies will then reimburse community solar participants for the power that is contributed to the grid, helping them save, on average, 5 – 25 percent on their electric bills.  

Community solar programs offer economic benefits of solar to everyone, regardless of where they live, creating opportunities for families and businesses to lower and stabilize their bills. Some community solar projects, especially those developed by independent companies in conjunction with a community, are also a great way to foster a sense of camaraderie and collective action through educational workshops and volunteer opportunities.  

Addressing Climate Change Responsibly, To Protect Birds

Birds play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems by pollinating plants, controlling insect populations, and dispersing seeds. Climate change and loss of quality habitat that birds need is threatening birds and their contributions to our shared environment. In order to strike the right balance between conservation and renewable energy expansion, it’s important that solar installations incorporate bird-friendly designs and be sited with critical bird habitats in mind. Audubon strongly supports properly sited solar development that avoids and minimizes impacts to birds and their habitat. Learn more about Audubon’s position on renewable energy. 

Opportunities to Expand Community Solar

Thanks to recent laws and policies, access to community solar is growing. Across the country there are currently 18 states, and the District of Columbia, that have community solar. Additionally, there are some rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities which offer community solar as an option. In the Great Lakes region, Illinois stands out as a leader in community solar development thanks to robust policies, like the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which are helping to expand equitable access to solar energy for underserved communities. Nearby, Wisconsin has implemented policies to spur the development of solar, like net metering (which compensates customers who generate their own electricity and add it to the grid), and community solar pilot programs.  

This work is encouraging, but more needs to be done across the region to ensure that everyone can contribute to and yield the rewards of solar energy generation. Policies tailored to community solar have yet to be authorized in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. The good news is that there is legislation in the works in several states to grow community solar programs.  

In Ohio, HB 197 would create the first community solar project in the state. This important bill would make community solar more accessible and drive economic benefits. Ohio currently supports more than 7,000 solar jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Ohio HB 197 would help bring even more solar jobs to the state. Audubon Great Lakes submitted written testimony in support of the bill, and will be working in the coming months to support it passage. 

Michigan is in the early stages of moving forward legislation that would enable community solar. Last year, the legislature introduced Senate Bills 152 and 153 and House Bills 4464 and 4465. There’s optimism these bills will see movement this year. 

Take Action in Support of Community Solar

In order to address an issue as big as climate change, we need to work together. Learn how you can take action in support of community solar, to help protect birds and our communities. 

How you can help, right now