Voinovich School professional shares solar energy research

Daniel Kington
December 15, 2017

Proponents of solar energy argue that the technology can advance economic development while protecting the environment and public health. However, the successful deployment of solar energy faces both economic and political hurdles. Dr. Gilbert Michaud, a researcher and adjunct faculty at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, has focused his recent research efforts on overcoming those hurdles – and has shared his insights at prominent research conferences.

Michaud recently discussed an innovative model known as community solar at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management 2017 conference, the largest public policy conference in the U.S. Community solar allows groups of individuals to share the costs and benefits of solar energy investment. In this way, individuals can connect shared solar arrays to the electric grid, both selling excess energy and accessing the grid when they need more power for consumption. Community solar has many benefits, such as emissions reductions and enhanced community cohesion. 

“Community solar is a compelling and important approach since it allows renters, business owners, low-income individuals and homeowners with obstructed roofs, among others, to participate in the solar energy economy,” Michaud said.

Michaud’s research has examined why, despite its benefits, community solar has not been more widely implemented.

“Pushback from some electric utilities and other interests, as well as a general lack of education and attention to this issue, have obstructed states from adopting enabling legislation,” Michaud said. “However, with increased awareness, participation and collaboration, as well as shared best practices across states, the prospects for community solar are promising.”

State implementation of successful community solar policies will depend upon certain circumstances. “There is no single best way to deploy community solar, so states ought to encourage an assortment of models to drive innovation and capture investors who could not otherwise participate,” Michaud said.

Michaud regularly shares his research investigating community solar. In October, Michaud presented his research at the annual American Solar Energy Society in Denver, CO to an audience of roughly 80–90 people.