Community Power Accelerator Logo
An image with slices of different photographs, representing community solar in different settings.

This is the

Community Power Accelerator

Powered by the U.S. Department of Energy

The Community Power Accelerator™ connects developers, investors, philanthropists, and community-based organizations to work together to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, we provide training, technical assistance, and critical connections to empower you to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household.

How Do I Join?

STEP 1


Join NCSP

Register to join the National Community Solar Partnership online community on Mobilize.

STEP 2


Join the Accelerator

STEP 3


Create Profile

Create an organizational profile based on the role your organization will play in the Community Power Accelerator.

STEP 4


Engage

Engage with others on the Community Power Accelerator

Why Join?

Investors and philanthropic organizations that have developed financial products to support the development of community solar can find new projects with developers and organizations that are both mission-aligned and ready for financing.

Developers and community-based organizations that have the expertise and capacity to build community solar projects with meaningful benefits for under-served communities can gain the knowledge and support to develop credit-worthy projects and make connections to sources of financing.

The Community Power Accelerator enables you to make connections and accelerate the deployment more equitable clean energy projects. The accelerator is designed to make sure funds flow to projects that will make the biggest impact. It also provides the tools, training, and support that developers need to get their projects ready to seek funding - especially developers that are small or new to community solar.

Read more about who can join.

How It Works

A “credit-ready” community solar project has clearly defined financing, ownership, and subscriber models, is designed to maximize meaningful benefits to subscribers, and has a strong plan to get from conception to completion. Here's how we get you there:

For investors and philanthropists:

  1. Find DOE-verified projects that need financing

    You find mission-aligned projects seeking the type of financing you offer and help bring the projects to fruition.

For developers and community-based organizations:

  1. Take a training

    New or small developers or organizations can receive training in financing and development processes, from 101 videos to multi-week courses.

  2. Use the Credit-Ready Checklist

    A comprehensive checklist, developed by experienced solar investors, will help you complete all the predevelopment requirements to put together robust, credit-ready projects.

  3. Get free technical assistance

    We will help you complete the predevelopment checklist and ensure your projects incorporate equity and meaningful benefits for communities.

  4. Connect with investors and philanthropic organizations

    You find the right partners with mission-aligned funding through our networking platform to make your project happen.

Through this process, the Community Power Accelerator is building a pipeline of verified, credit-ready projects with a philanthropic focus that will speed deployment and increase investor confidence in community solar projects.

The Community Power Accelerator is powered by the DOE National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP), a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar with meaningful benefits to every U.S. household.

Read more about how it works.

Meaningful Benefits

Through stakeholder request for information feedback and other stakeholder engagements, NCSP has identified key outcomes of community solar programs and projects that should benefit subscribers and their communities. The five community solar outcomes that have been identified as meaningful benefits are:

Greater household savings

Provide or support at least a 20% reduction in annual electricity bills and/or provide financial benefits equivalent to a 20% bill reduction for all residential subscribers to a project.

Example: At least 40% of the number of subscribers to a project or program come from LMI households.

Example: At least 40% of the generation capacity of a project is subscribed to LMI households.

LMI household access

Include or support at least 40% of subscribers from LMI households. (See Key Terms below for guidance on how to define LMI households.)

Example: A project or program may deliver a monthly electricity bill savings of 20% or more for all residential subscribers.

Example: Monthly bill savings may vary but the project or program provides a 20% average electricity bill savings, as compared to non-subscribers paying the same rates, over the course of at least six months.

Resilience and grid benefits

Include or support the capability to deliver power to households and/or critical facilities during a grid outage and/or strengthen grid operations through strategic siting, demand response, and other actions.

Example: The project includes battery storage that is able to deliver 10 hours of emergency backup power to critical facilities.

Example: The project includes and supplies a microgrid that is able to ‘island’ and continue to deliver power during an outage.

Community ownership

Include or support community ownership of, or equity in, project and/or portfolio assets. Community ownership may also include other wealth-building strategies such as community benefit agreements.

Example: Residential subscribers directly purchase and own 25% of the solar panels within a community solar array.

Example: The community solar project is owned by a member-owned electric cooperative or municipal utility.

Equitable workforce development and entrepreneurship

Support community workforce development by advancing high-wage opportunities, reducing income disparities across demographic groups, ensuring a trained and available workforce that is reflective of the community, and creating a safe working environment and pathways to union membership. Project portfolios and programs should also ensure that women- and minority-owned businesses have equitable opportunity.

Example: The project developer hires and trains community members for related positions, such as in design, construction, or community engagement.

Example: The project developer provides solar career education, leveraging local organizations to target underrepresented participants and highlighting career pathways.

Key Terms

Authentic community engagement: Authentic community engagement includes practices through which community members define and drive the outcomes of the decision-making process to ensure that benefits accrue to the community. When community members are authentically engaged, project developers are accountable and responsive to community priorities and needs, and the outcomes of a program or project will clearly reflect the priorities of community members.

Community benefit agreement: Community benefit agreements are legal agreements between community benefit groups and developers, stipulating the benefits a developer agrees to fund or furnish in exchange for community support of a project. Benefits can include commitments to hire directly from a community, contributions to economic trust funds, local workforce training guarantees, and more. Community benefit agreements are strategic vehicles for community improvement that can also provide benefits to privatesector developers and both state and local governments.

Disadvantaged communities (DACs): The Office of Management and Budget Interim Guidance defines a community as either a group of individuals living in geographic proximity (such as census tract), or a geographically dispersed set of individuals (such as migrant workers or Native Americans), where either type of group experiences common conditions. The DOE working definition for DACs has been developed by an internal and external collaborative research process and includes data for 36 indicators collected at the census tract level. These 36 indicators can be grouped across the following categories (numbers in parentheses show how many indicators fall in that category): fossil dependence (2), energy burden (5), environmental and climate hazards (10), and vulnerability (socioeconomic, housing burden, transportation burdens, etc.) (19).2

Energy insecurity: The inability of a household to meet its basic heating, cooling, and energy needs over time. Frontline communities: Communities that experience the greatest impacts and consequences of climate change. These are often communities of color that were placed in the least desirable areas, often with high exposure to pollution and climate impacts such as flooding.

Low- to moderate-income (LMI): Definitions for LMI vary. For this prize, we are looking for project portfolios or programs that serve LMI populations. In your submission, you must identify the definition you are using. If the state where the project(s) or program is located has an applicable LMI definition, you should use that applicable LMI definition. If your state does not have a definition for LMI populations, or if your project portfolio contains projects across multiple states, you are encouraged to use the federal definition for LMI, which is households at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or households earning 80% or below of the area median income as defined by the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Socially and economically disadvantaged individuals (SEDIs): Individuals who have had their access to credit on reasonable terms diminished compared to others in comparable economic circumstances, due to their: ● Membership of a group that has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society ● Gender ● Veteran status ● Limited English proficiency ● Disability ● Long-term residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society ● Membership in a federally or state-recognized American Indian tribe ● Long-term residence in a rural community ● Residence in a U.S. territory ● Residence in a community undergoing economic transitions (including communities impacted by the shift toward a net-zero economy or deindustrialization) ● Membership in an underserved community.