How the Community Power Accelerator Works
Discover the services, training, and resources available to Community Power Accelerator participants
The Community Power Accelerator Initiative aims to dramatically increase access to the funding and technical expertise necessary to deploy community solar that provides meaningful benefits to subscribers and their communities.
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Community Solar Partnership created the Community Power Accelerator, an online ecosystem that brings together lending institutions, philanthropic organizations, and existing or emerging community solar developers to support a more efficient and equitable distribution of the capital needed to develop community solar with meaningful benefits.
By providing training courses, guidance and technical assistance for predevelopment planning, an online platform to make connections, and more, the initiative is built to help you every step of the way from project conception to deployment.
The Community Power Accelerator Platform: Ecosystem to Connect Capital Providers and Developers
The Community Power Accelerator platform makes it easier for developers, community-based organizations, lenders, and philanthropic organizations to identify and connect with each other based on criteria each participant includes in their profiles. The accelerator uses a project evaluation Credit-Ready Checklist as the basis for conversations about project financing.
The accelerator platform includes two types of profiles:
Organizational Profile: Every organization participating in the accelerator completes an organizational profile on the platform. This will includes information about the organization’s role, location, size, capacity (i.e., number of projects developed or amount of lending or funding available for community solar), and priorities for participating in the accelerator.
The Community Power Accelerator platform uses the information collected in the organizational profile to help participants identify and connect with other organizations in the accelerator that may want to collaborate based on location, mission, or other criteria.
Project Profile: All developers or community-based organizations using the accelerator to connect with financing or funding for a community solar project completes a project profile on the platform. This includes detailed information about a specific community solar project, including ownership, location, size, projected benefits, site control, development stage, and types of capital needed for development.
The Community Power Accelerator platform uses the information collected in the project profile to help lenders and philanthropic organizations identify and connect with projects they may be interested in supporting.
Every organizational and project profile is reviewed by a technical assistance provider for completeness and accuracy prior to being posted on the accelerator platform. The Learning Lab provides instruction on how to complete the analysis and modeling necessary to develop a project profile. NCSP technical assistance provider can also help participants complete project profiles.
The Credit-Ready Checklist: Build a Strong Project Plan
The Credit-Ready Checklist is the key resource that developers can use to get their projects ready to shop around to funders. It contains a list of 47 important predevelopment considerations, including information about system size, siting, ownership, capital structure, revenues, and costs.
This checklist was developed in collaboration with over 40 representatives from financial institutions familiar with solar lending, including commercial banks, community development financial institutions, green banks, and credit unions. Lenders, philanthropic organizations, and developers can use this checklist to start initial conversations about funding for community solar projects.
Technical Assistance: Your Guide through the Checklist
The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) provides free assistance to Community Power Accelerator participants as they complete the Credit-Ready Checklist, helping them address financial, technical, and policy challenges and develop their project profiles.
Please note that the technical assistance program does not provide financial assistance, accounting or tax advice, advocacy, or marketing support. Organizations must be a National Community Solar Partnership partner to be eligible to apply for and receive technical assistance.
The Learning Lab: Get Up to Speed on Community Solar
The Learning Lab is the place to gain expertise on community solar projects and business models for small and new developers, nonprofit organizations, cooperatives, intermediary organizations, and other organizations. The Learning Lab is run by the Center for Impact Finance at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy National Community Solar Partnership. Organizations must be members of the accelerator to participate.
The Learning Lab includes two virtual courses:
- The Community Solar Introduction is a self-paced, 101 course for organizations that wish to understand the community solar development process and partner with community solar developers on a limited number of projects.
- The Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab is a more intensive ten-week course featuring guest lecturers and expert speakers. This course delivers practical information for developing community solar projects that serve low-income communities and further environmental and social justice to guide community-based and low-income-focused organizations (including intermediaries). This course consists of seven modules and weekly instructor-led virtual sessions.
The Community Power Accelerator Prize: Earn Funding for Equitable Community Solar Projects
The American-Made Community Power Accelerator Prize is a $10 million prize competition designed to fast-track the efforts of new, emerging, and expanding solar developers and co-developers to learn, participate, and grow their operations to support multiple, successful community solar projects. The goal of this prize is to support and grow a robust ecosystem of community solar project developers that incorporate meaningful benefits into projects across the United States.
This three-phase prize aims to increase the number of equitable community solar projects by providing funding and resources for developers and co-developers throughout the project pre-development process. By the end of the prize, competitors will be ready to engage with the Community Power Accelerator platform.
The Philanthropy Guide: Prepare to Gain Philanthropic Support
The Philanthropy-Ready Guide is intended for community-based organizations, non-profit organizations, and mission-aligned developers seeking philanthropic support to develop community solar. It provides an overview of how foundations work, what they seek in a fundable project, and provides guidance on crafting effective proposals. In short, this guide aims to help the fund-seeker become philanthropy-ready.