Author: US DOE Staff    Published: 1/19/2023      EERE News 

U.S. Department of Energy - Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Accelerator Prize

DOE’s Community Power Accelerator™ Will Help Create Pipeline of Projects Ready for Financing, Award-Winning Projects Demonstrate Best Practices in Community Solar

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) today launched a slate of initiatives to support the deployment of equitable community solar projects and recognized projects exemplifying best practices in community solar. Community solar allows any household to access the benefits of renewable energy, with an emphasis on those that cannot access rooftop solar. The Community Power Accelerator™ and its $10 million prize will leverage $5 billion in private-sector financing commitments to help community-based organizations and other mission-aligned project developers access financing and build community solar projects, particularly in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities. The Department is also launching a new campaign to highlight the connections between solar energy and its long-term benefits, beginning with community solar. Community solar will play a vital role in supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that every community benefits from the clean energy transition and in achieving the President’s goals of a 100% electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The National Community Solar Partnership provides yet another exciting opportunity to harness the power of the sun to power our communities—helping make our climate goals a reality while lowering energy costs and reducing local air pollution,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The President’s historic clean energy laws are supercharging access to renewable energy, and DOE is seizing the moment by accelerating community solar deployment to ensure affordable, clean energy is available whenever and wherever to everyone.”

Accelerating Equitable Community Solar Deployment with the Community Power Accelerator

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act established tax credits for solar energy projects, including a 20% bonus credit for solar power projects that sell their electricity to low-income households. This tax credit could support up to 18 GW of additional community solar projects over the next 10 years, enough to power over 2.5 million homes. The critical challenge is ensuring that all types of organizations and communities have access to the funds to develop community solar and that the projects deployed deliver “meaningful benefits” to communities and subscribers, like electricity bill savings, community ownership and wealth-building, resilience, equitable workforce development, and low- and moderate-income household access.

Today, DOE’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) launched the Community Power Accelerator™ to bring together investors, philanthropic organizations, developers, community-based organizations, and technical experts to work together to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. The Accelerator will support developers with technical assistance and a Learning Lab to build a pipeline of verified, credit-ready projects that will connect with investors seeking to fund community solar in disadvantaged communities. Financial institutions and philanthropic organizations participating in the Accelerator have committed $5 billion in private sector financing for projects that are credit-ready.

The Accelerator includes the following programs:

  • The Community Power Accelerator Prize is a new $10 million competition that will provide pre-development funds to organizations to build the expertise, experience, and capacity required to develop community solar projects at scale.
  • An online platform, developed by DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, that will enable community-based organizations, intermediaries, and other mission-aligned project developers to connect with investors and philanthropic organizations seeking to fund a more diverse and community-based pipeline of community solar projects.
  • A Learning Lab and technical assistance program will prepare community-based organizations, small or new solar developers, and others to develop, finance, and build “credit-ready” community solar projects—projects that are ready for financing.

Recognizing Best Practices in Community Solar

During the NCSP Annual Summit, DOE announced the winners of the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an awards program that recognizes best practices in community solar projects and programs that increase equitable access and ensure benefits—such as greater household savings, good-paying jobs, and enhanced energy resilience—go to subscribers and their communities.

Five teams were selected for Grand Prize awards. Across the board, these five winners will help households achieve a projected combined total savings of $4.3 million on their energy bills. The projects provide clean energy access for 7,300 low- to moderate-income households and demonstrate best practices in increasing resilience, expanding community ownership, building a more equitable workforce, and leading community engagement.

  • Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Battery IPP (Shungnak, AK): This solar and battery project led by the Shungnak and Kobuk tribes in the Northwest Arctic Borough region in Alaska aims to stabilize the cost of electricity and allow the communities to take charge of their energy future.
  • Faribault Community Solar (Faribault, MN): The Faribault Community Solar project is a cooperatively-owned community solar array serving mostly low-to-moderate income residents in southern Minnesota.
  • Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households (Brooklyn, NY): Community Power delivers energy savings to 500 households, provided workforce training, and offered paid jobs to public housing residents.
  • District of Columbia’s Solar for All (Washington, DC): Solar for All is a program designed to reduce electricity bills for households in Washington, DC, through single-family and community solar projects.
  • JOE-4-SUN Ashland (Ashland, MA): JOE-4-SUN Ashland is a 6 MW community solar project that saves low-to-moderate income households over $400 per year on electricity costs and brings the benefits of clean, renewable energy to a superfund site.

Connecting the Dots on Solar Energy: Generating Power for Generations

DOE also launched a new campaign to highlight the many benefits of solar energy to individuals and communities and provide a resource hub so that the public can learn about how solar will positively impact the nation’s future. The Inflation Reduction Act lowers the cost of solar energy for consumers and businesses while creating good paying jobs as deployment and manufacturing capacity grows across the country. Over the next few years, millions of households are expected to join the nearly 4 million American households that have gone solar—either through installing solar on their rooftops or by joining a community solar program. The Connect the Dots on Solar Energy campaign will focus on making connections between solar energy investments and their enduring, long-term benefits.

About the National Community Solar Partnership

NCSP is working to increase community solar installed in the United States to 20 GW, enough to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings to consumers across America. NCSP has over 1,300 partners who leverage peer networks and technical assistance resources to overcome barriers to expanding community solar access.

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Community Solar Partnership.

NCSP 2023 Summit

2023 National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) Annual Summit Recap

It truly was community solar’s time to shine! The third annual NCSP Summit brought together community solar professionals and visionaries who showcased the substantial progress made in community solar deployment and the bright future for community solar with meaningful benefits. Check out the Summit’s big moments and major announcements below.

Community Power Accelerator Launch of the Community Power Accelerator™

DOE announced a new initiative, the Community Power Accelerator™, to bring together investors, philanthropic organizations, developers, community-based organizations, and technical experts to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. Register for an informational webinar on Feb. 1 at 12 p.m. ET to learn more about the Accelerator’s many programs and resources.

Upcoming Deadlines

Don’t forget to participate in these funding opportunities, prizes, and solicitations:

Some Light 🌞 Reading

               Nancy LaPlaca

Get to Know the Solar Office

Check out the latest installment of SETO’s LinkedIn Series, “Meet the Energy Department’s Solar Office,” featuring Nancy LaPlaca, our senior regulatory expert and engagement specialist on the communications team. Learn about what sparked Nancy’s passion for solar energy and how she has maintained that enthusiastic spirit for more than 20 years.

Operant Networks Boosts Grid Defenses Against Cyber Threats

As more distributed energy resources (DERs) like wind and solar come online, our power grid becomes more complex and requires new approaches to protect it against cyber threats. Learn how SETO-funded Operant Networks is helping secure the clean energy grid with encrypted sensors that can securely communicate DER data to multiple parties at once.

Perovskite Startup Prize Final Countdown Contest is Open

It’s the final countdown! Your last chance to enter the American-Made Perovskite Startup Prize Countdown Contest is March 23. The competition accelerates efforts to develop innovative perovskite solar companies with the potential to manufacture commercially viable products in the U.S. Finalists of the Countdown Contest receive a $200,000 cash prize and are eligible to compete in the Liftoff Contest. Both new and previous applicants are encouraged to apply.

Updated Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar

Check out the updated Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar resource for farms and agricultural businesses looking to solar to power their daily operations and diversify their revenue stream.

Farmers Guide

NREL researcher Jordan Macknick works with teams from University of Massachuselts (UMass) Clean Energy Extension and Hyperion on a photovoltaic dual-use research project at the UMass Crop Animal Research and Education Center in South Deerfield, MA. Photo by Dennis Schroeder/NREL.

DOE Launches Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) Program to Help Communities Meet Their Clean Energy Goals

DOE’s new C2C program connects local governments, electric utilities, and community-based organizations with DOE’s national labs to help them realize their clean energy goals. With three levels of assistance ranging from a few weeks to a few years, C2C supports communities in transitioning to clean energy systems that reflect their local priorities.

Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN) Publishes Trove of Resources for Communities

Eight teams in round two of SEIN provide blueprints, tip sheets, and other resources for communities interested in installing solar-plus-storage and harnessing the resiliency and economic benefits of solar energy.

New Analysis Reveals Surging Interconnection Costs and Demands

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s analysis of PJM Interconnection found substantial interconnection cost increases and tremendous growth of PJM’s interconnection project queue. Learn what factors are driving these increases and other trends in electric capacity queues.

Upcoming Events

Workshop: Situational Awareness and Real-time, Coordinated Control of High Penetration DER

January 30 & 31 | 11 a.m. ET
Join SETO awardee, Arizona State University, to learn about the results and products of their multi-industry research and development project on advanced technologies for extreme penetration of distributed solar PV in the distribution grid.

HelioCon Seminar Series: Solar Field for Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power (CSP) Tower Technology 

February 1 | 11 a.m. ET
DOE’s Heliostat Consortium (HelioCon) is hosting a seminar on best practices and lessons learned in operational commercial CSP projects.

Community Power Accelerator Prize Informational Webinar 

February 1 | 12 p.m. ET
Attend this upcoming webinar to learn about the Community Power Accelerator Prize’s submission requirements, scoring criteria, and winner selection process. Participants will also have an opportunity to ask questions.

Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) Program Kickoff Webinar 

February 1 | 3 p.m. ET
Register for this webinar for an overview of the C2C program and to discuss in-depth partnership support.

Webinar: Made in the Shade: Growing Crops under Solar Panels

February 7 | 1 p.m. ET
Join the AgriSolar Clearinghouse for a webinar series on agrivoltaics, the co-location of solar and agriculture on the same land. Additional webinars are scheduled in the coming months.

Webinar: CSP Rankine Steam Cycle Reliability

February 9 | 7 p.m. ET
The Electric Power Research Institute is looking to engage with CSP plant operators and support organizations in this webinar about their preliminary work on the reliability of the Rankine cycle of CSP, which is part of a DOE project, CSP Process Enhancement and Refinement For Operations, Reliability, and Maintenance.

Clean Energy Technology Pathways: From Research to Commercialization Webinar

February 14 | 4 p.m. ET
Join SETO’s Marie Mapes in this webinar to learn about a recent analysis of four clean energy commercialization case studies, including thin film solar P