Energy from the sun is sure one of the most pervasive forms of common wealth. So why not capture and share that wealth more widely with everyone?
That's the basic idea behind the Solar Commons, a prototype project that uses revenue streams from solar energy and partnerships to build community wealth. The primary vehicle is a Solar Commons trust agreement among diverse community groups and the owner of a solar power array.
The driving force behind this socio-legal innovation has been Kathryn Milun, a community-engaged scholar, writer and energy democracy advocate. Milun is also an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and research fellow at the university's Minnesota Design Center. She has spent the past 15 years developing the legal, technical, financial and operational frameworks for the Solar Commons concept.
Four projects are now underway – in Tucson, Arizona two in rural Minnesota, and one in north Minneapolis. They bring together several elements: solar installations, a financial model, a trust agreement, and participatory peer-governance.