American-Made Prize Accelerates Community Solar Initiatives Across the US
Round 2 of the Community Power Accelerator Prize Names 25 Phase 1 Winning Teams
The American-Made Community Power Accelerator Prize, now in its second round, is a $10 million prize competition designed to fast-track the efforts of new, emerging, and expanding solar developers and co-developers. Throughout the competition, teams are challenged to complete a live instructor-led course, network with investors, and learn more about growing their operations to support multiple successful community solar projects.
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office announced 25 Phase 1 winning teams, each receiving a $50,000 cash prize and advancing to Phase 2 of the competition. During Phase 2, competitors will dive deeper into their proposed project portfolios with instructor-led courses and hands-on technical assistance. By the end of this phase, competitors will be equipped to seek funding for their community solar projects using DOE’s Community Power Accelerator platform.
All Phase 2 teams will have the opportunity to win a cash prize of $200,000 and participate in Phase 3. Read more below about each winning team’s strategy to deploy solar projects that serve low-income communities and further environmental and social justice. Find full profiles on each winning team on the official prize platform, HeroX.
Aardex Corporation | Colorado and Arkansas
Aardex Corporation is a real estate developer who is new to community solar but has significant solar development experience. Their proposal includes two 500-kW projects in Colorado and Arkansas, both targeting disadvantaged community (DAC) sites, with site control and feasibility studies completed. Recognizing the potential to introduce community solar to Arkansas, the team seeks support to solidify their project’s meaningful benefits and better serve disadvantaged communities.
Citizen Energy (Avanza Sun) | Maryland
Citizen Energy (Avanza Sun) is a minority-owned developer, has extensive experience in clean energy development, and presents a portfolio proposal encompassing six low-income multifamily housing sites in Hyattsville, Maryland, targeting an estimated solar capacity of 2.06 MW DC. Their commitments include ensuring 100% low-to-moderate-income (LMI) access and 20–50% bill savings, emphasizing a strong connection with housing management companies beneficial for residents.
Clean Slate Solar and Housing Initiative | Maryland
The Equitable Community Solar Alliance, formed by Clean Slate Solar and Housing Initiative Partnership Inc., is a newly established, minority-owned company, with team members experienced in solar development. Their proposal entails two projects totaling 1.6 MW and will provide meaningful benefits to subscribers including LMI access, bill savings, community ownership, and workforce development.
The team’s workforce plans involve launching training programs for starting solar businesses, tailored for underrepresented groups in collaboration with Prince George’s Community College, aiming to train numerous students and create pathways to renewable energy jobs.
Cooperative Energy Futures | Minnesota
Cooperative Energy Futures, a highly experienced and community-owned clean energy cooperative with over 1,100 members in Minnesota, aims to develop a portfolio of 6.4 MW. Committed to LMI access and bill savings, the proposed portfolio will also feature an accessible membership model which empowers stakeholders and supports asset building within the cooperative. Additionally, the team prioritizes minority hiring in collaboration with workforce training programs for greater community inclusion in solar installation.
Ecological Citizen’s Project | New York
Ecological Citizen’s Project is a minority- and women-owned nonprofit in Hudson Valley, New York. The team prioritizes community-owned renewable energy to empower LMI and underrepresented communities while focusing on food sovereignty and agricultural workforce development in the area. Collaborating with Working Power, they propose a portfolio of ten community solar projects totaling 2.1 MW, located on local municipal and commercial buildings in Westchester County.
Energy Conversation Works | Wyoming
Energy Conversation Works, a nonprofit team partnering with rural electric cooperative Lower Valley Energy (LVE), the Town of Jackson, Teton County, and Lincoln County, aims to pioneer Wyoming’s first community solar project. They propose 1.5 MW across two projects. The team has the support of the local government and has engaged local housing authorities to expand solar projects to link with affordable housing projects, demonstrating an interest in alleviating energy burdens for the local community.
Enterprise Community Development | Maryland
Enterprise Community Development is a leading minority- and women-owned nonprofit developer of affordable homes in the Mid-Atlantic region, serving more than 21,000 residents at 114 properties. Enterprise has proposed a portfolio of 2.2 MW on multifamily rooftops in Maryland and is committed to providing 100% accessibility for LMI households, with a vision to include the implementation of workforce development programs tailored for residents, fostering skill-building opportunities.
Green Door Initiative | Michigan
Green Door Initiative is an established minority- and women-led nonprofit in Detroit, renowned for its climate-smart job training and for its “Motor City to Solar City” project. This initiative is dedicated to aiding Detroit’s shift towards renewable energy and environmentally friendly manufacturing practices. For the prize, the team has proposed a 1-MW portfolio intended for installation on a school building and a city plot, as part of their collaborative efforts with Detroit’s Office of Sustainability.
Hoʻāhu Energy Cooperative Molokai | Hawaii
Hoʻāhu Energy Cooperative Molokai, a grassroots minority- and women-led nonprofit cooperative in Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi, is advancing two solar projects totaling 2.45 MW, which seeks to support 100% LMI subscribers with lower energy costs while also providing backup power to the community by integrating Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) into their planned projects. The proposed projects aim to benefit a total of 1,500 households across both sites, ensuring reduced energy expenses, fostering community ownership, and providing opportunities for workforce development.
ICAST | Virginia and New Mexico
ICAST, a well-established nonprofit developer, is proposing an ambitious portfolio encompassing solar development skills across six projects, totaling 27 MW, alongside battery storage in Virginia and New Mexico. As part of their strategy to increase resiliency, ICAST plans to create a Tribal Utility in New Mexico with overall community-wide plans to upgrade structures to grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs). The combination of community solar, GEBs, and utility-level energy management information systems would provide significant load flexibility and grid benefits.
Minneapolis Climate Action | Minnesota
The Minneapolis Climate Action Renewable Energy Partnership is a minority- and women-owned nonprofit organization that collaborates with solar developer Renewable Energy Partners to serve disadvantaged LMI communities in Minneapolis. Their proposed portfolio includes two new community solar projects aimed to serve LMI households. This team has a strong background in community ownership models, aiming for long-term ownership by neighborhood and community-based entities.
Mississippi Energy Developers | Mississippi
Mississippi Energy Developers aims to launch two 3-MW solar installations (6 MW total) on rural and DAC school rooftops as part of the Mississippi Solar for Schools program. These projects will actively involve local workforce partnerships and are set to provide training opportunities for upcoming developers from historically black colleges.
The energy generated by these proposed installations will be divided equally between the schools and subscribers, aiming to reduce energy expenses for both. These projects will also serve as compelling case studies, showcasing the integration of public infrastructure with community solar.
Monadnock Energy | New Hampshire
Monadnock Energy is an experienced community solar developer who aims to leverage their expertise to construct 1 MW of community solar in New Hampshire, targeting LMI households. Their commitments include ensuring 50% LMI access and bill savings, along with plans for joint ownership of solar arrays with local housing authorities and financial partners. This team also aims to incorporate local prevailing wages and apprenticeship programs into their projects.
OneEnergy Renewables | Maryland and Ohio
One Energy Renewables is an experienced community solar developer and an industry leader. They have clear goals to expand their LMI community solar portfolios by targeting Churchville, Maryland, and initiating two projects in Ohio, a new state for their operations. For their projects, they have committed to strong LMI access and bill savings.
Piedmont Housing Alliance | Virginia
Piedmont Housing Alliance, a nonprofit developer in Virginia, dedicated to affordable housing and community development, proposes a 1-MW portfolio located on local school rooftops. Committed to LMI access and providing subscribers with bill savings, they seek to incorporate equity and decision-making power for low-income subscribers in the community ownership model, leveraging their experience with the Piedmont Community Land Trust.
Powerhouse 360 | Georgia
A minority- and veteran-owned developer spearheading new community solar development in Georgia. Powerhouse 360 has proposed a trailblazing community solar portfolio in Georgia totaling 1.2 MW, combining commercial and LMI multifamily rooftop spaces within and/or serving disadvantaged Atlanta communities. The team is committed to supporting low-to-moderate-income household access, bill savings, workforce development opportunities, which includes the hiring photovoltaic (PV) installers and designers from disadvantaged communities to work on their portfolio of projects.
Premier Energy | Nebraska
Premier Energy is a minority- and women-owned developer spearheading three community solar projects totaling 1.4 MW in Nebraska and Colorado’s rural communities. This initiative will improve access to community solar for disadvantaged rural households with all five of the meaningful benefits.
Prosperity Works | New Mexico
This New Mexico-based minority- and women-owned community organization aims to advance economic development in LMI and DAC areas by partnering with experienced co-developers to initiate two 5-MW community solar projects. Prosperity Works prioritizes workforce development through partnerships with New Mexico’s largest community college and are actively marketing solar training to bolster the local workforce.
RAMP Solar LLC | California
RAMP Solar LLC is a minority- and women-owned developer seeking to establish two projects totaling slightly over 1 MW in Los Angeles’ Antelope Valley using agrivoltaics and their strong connections to the veteran community in LA. Their team consists of experienced solar developers and individuals with nonprofit backgrounds, particularly engaged with addressing food insecurity among veterans.
Reactivate DevCo LLC | Illinois
A joint venture of Invenergy, the nation’s largest clean energy developer, and Lafayette Square, an impact focused investment firm. Their goal is to increase solar access by LMI households through distributed generation systems, primarily community solar. With prior success in Illinois, they have completed several community solar projects, small-scale utility solar ventures totaling 11 GW, and have commenced work on Virtual Power Plants (VPPs). This team is proposing two projects totaling 5.8 MW in Sauk Village and Chicago Heights, both located in disadvantaged areas in Illinois with a predominantly Black population.
Rivertown Solar | New York
Rivertown Solar is a growing developer transitioning from residential and commercial solar installation to community solar. Their portfolio seeks to develop 2.5 MW of new community solar in New York. Their projects prioritize access for LMI households, emphasizing bill savings and creating opportunities for workforce development.
Sien Inc. | California
Sien Inc. is a community solar developer focused on developing community solar and storage for disadvantaged rural agricultural communities in California’s Central Valley. They aim to provide clean energy access, lower costs, financial equity, employment opportunities, and resilience. Planning two 3-MW projects with town ownership, they prioritize 100% low-to-moderate income (LMI) access, emphasizing local subscribers, community ownership, bill savings, and workforce training.
SolaRay Farms Inc. | Oregon
SolaRay Farms Inc., though no stranger to solar, is embarking on a new path of community solar development with a strong mission to introduce community solar to rural Oregon, leveraging agrivoltaics to assist impoverished farming communities. The team aims to develop two 1.44-MW sites in Klamath Falls, allocating at least 50% of project capacity to serve the LMI community.
The Point | New York
The Point is a community-based organization dedicated to seeking to develop two solar projects totaling 5 MW in Hunts Point, an underserved section of the South Bronx. Their first project involves repurposing a 3.2-acre brownfield site within the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center into a solar canopy over a parking lot. The second project aims to utilize a 5.5-acre rooftop owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) for solar generation.
Tribuquent | Oklahoma and Minnesota
An experienced nonprofit with a focus on supporting Tribal Nations in solar development, Tribuquent aims to develop 5 MW of community solar across two projects in Minnesota and Oklahoma. In addition to providing bill savings, this team aims for 70–90% LMI access, ensuring medium resilience with microgrid and energy storage solutions. They plan for community ownership through solar cooperatives and workforce development, prioritizing local hiring and collaboration with tribal universities.
Phase 2 winners of the Community Power Accelerator Prize Round 2 are planned to be announced August 2024. Follow the prize on HeroX to stay up to date on all announcements.
News item from NREL.
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