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2023 Sunny Awards

Recognize community solar projects and programs that increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar.

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stage:
Meaningful Benefits and Grand Prize Awards Announced (tentative date)
prize:
$200,000

This challenge is closed

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Summary

Overview

The American-Made Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar (The Sunny Awards) is a $200,000 prize competition that will recognize community solar portfolios and programs that employ or develop best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities.

Community solar is any solar project or purchasing program in which the benefits of a solar project flow to multiple customers such as individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups, within a certain geographic area. Community solar projects and programs can vary significantly in their structure, implementation, and benefits they provide. The best practices of the projects and programs recognized by the Sunny Awards will provide a blueprint for community solar developers, state energy offices, utilities, and others to help achieve the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) target to power the equivalent of five million households with community solar by 2025, generating $1 billion in electricity bill savings.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the 2023 Sunny Awards in April 2023. The Sunny Awards offer up to thirty Finalist Awards at $2,500 each and up to five Grand Prize awards at $10,000 each. Fifteen of the 30 Finalist awardees will also be selected for either a Meaningful Benefit Award or an Engagement Award, both $5,000 cash prizes.  

Inclusive Outreach Engagement Award 

The Inclusive Outreach Engagement Award, formerly known as the Inclusive Solar Outreach Awards, is an exciting new addition to the 2023 Sunny Awards. This $5,000 prize highlights the impactful communication efforts and initiatives of up to 15 Sunny Awards finalists. Anyone with an eligible community solar-focused outreach campaign is encouraged to compete in the Sunny Awards.
 

How to Apply

To apply, community solar projects and programs must be able to prove that they are providing meaningful benefits in at least one of the following  Meaningful Benefits:

  • Low- to Moderate-Income (LMI) Household Access 
  • Greater Household Savings 
  • Resilience and Grid Benefits
  • Community Ownership 
  • Equitable Workforce Development and Entrepreneurship
  • Engagement Award: Community Participation
  • Engagement Award: Inclusive Outreach

Competitors will nominate a portfolio (of 1-5 community solar projects) or state-, tribal-, territory-, municipal- or utility-run program that demonstrates replicable and scalable best practices in providing meaningful benefits to community solar subscribers and their communities. Competitors will be required to complete a cover page, narrative, and to provide the required evidence detailed in the official rules. 

Interested participants can create a HeroX account and read the official rules to get started.
 

Award Stages

The Sunny Awards are a competition with four levels of recognition. Reviewers, including DOE staff and external experts, will evaluate nominations and give the following recognition and awards to top submissions.

Semifinalist Recognition

Strong evidence + meets criteria in at least two Meaningful Benefits

Any competitor who meets the criteria for at least two  Meaningful Benefits will be recognized on the NCSP webpage and in a public announcement. Submissions must include appropriate, complete, and verifiable evidence of the best practices employed by their portfolio or state or utility program to provide at least two Meaningful Benefits. Semifinalist Recognition does not come with any cash prize. The competitors recognized as Semifinalists are evaluated for Finalist Awards by DOE reviewers using the scoring guidance in the prize rules document. 

Finalist Awards

Strong evidence + meets criteria in at least two Meaningful Benefits

Up to 30 of the competitors selected for Semifinalist Recognition will be selected for a Finalist Award and receive a cash prize of $2,500. These competitors are then evaluated for the Grand Prize and Meaningful Benefit Awards by a panel of external reviewers using the scoring guidance in the Prize Rules document. 

Meaningful Benefit Awards

Strong evidence + meets criteria in at least two Meaningful Benefits

Up to 15 of the 30 Finalist awardees will be selected for a Meaningful Benefit Award or Engagement Award and will receive an additional cash prize of $5,000 (for a potential total of $7,500 in cash prizes). These recognitions will highlight the attributes and best practices that set apart each winning portfolio or state or utility program in the following categories:

  1. LMI Household Access 
  2. Greater Household Savings 
  3. Resilience and Grid Benefits
  4. Community Ownership 
  5. Equitable Workforce Development and Entrepreneurship
  6. Engagement Award: Community Participation
  7. Engagement Award: Inclusive Outreach

Sunny Grand Prize Awards

Strong evidence + meets criteria in at least two Meaningful Benefits

Up to 5 Finalist awardees will be selected as Grand Prize Award winners and will receive an additional cash prize of $10,000 for portfolios or state or utility programs that demonstrate exemplary and replicable best practices for delivering meaningful benefits across multiple categories. Sunny Grand Prize Award winners are not eligible for Meaningful Benefits/Engagement Awards.

One submission (portfolio or state/utility program) may win either a Grand Prize Award or a Meaningful Benefit/Engagement Award, not both.


Guidelines

Please review the official rules for the complete application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to receive updates on the prize or have any questions, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform or message us directly at  

 

Timeline
Updates21

Challenge Updates

4th Annual NCSP Summit Registration Now Open!

Jan. 5, 2024, 10:30 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

Happy New Year! 

We’re kicking off 2024 with an exciting event hosted by the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP). Join us February 14th for the fourth annual NCSP Summit, this year with special emphasis on how community solar can deploy benefits and deliver impact at scale. The event is virtual and free to the public. 

Learn more about… 

  • The technical potential of community solar and the industry’s ability to deliver meaningful benefits to households and communities
  • Innovative federal programs and financing to support community solar development
  • Ensuring consumer protections and creating community solar benefits that are impactful and sustainable
  • Impactful deployment strategies and inclusive outreach initiatives from successful community solar projects and programs recognized by the NCSP Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar and the Community Power Accelerator Prizes
  • New and expanded tools and resources to accelerate community solar deployment.

Plus, you’ll have unique opportunities to engage with community solar leaders from across the nation.

Register here to virtually attend this 4-hour summit. We look forward to seeing you there! 


Congratulations 2023 Sunny Awards Winners!

Nov. 15, 2023, 11:45 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Solar Energy Technologies Office today announced the winners of the 2023 Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar. Five applicants have been named Grand Prize Winners and will receive a $10,000 cash prize each. One applicant was named a Meaningful Benefit Award Winner in the Resilience Category and will receive a $5,000 cash prize for their project portfolio.   

To receive recognition through the Sunny Awards, competitors were challenged to meet ambitious submission requirements that showcased the meaningful benefits delivered by their community solar projects and programs. Their applications were reviewed by the U.S. Department of Energy and a panel of external expert reviewers and scored based on their ability to provide and verify the meaningful benefits their projects or programs provide.  

Congratulations to the five Grand Prize and one Meaningful Benefit Award winners! Read more about each team’s efforts toward expanding access to community solar below.  

Grand Prize Award Winners 

(Listed alphabetically.) 

 Illinois Solar For All 

Illinois | Illinois Power Agency  

Illinois Solar for All is a state-led program that supports 27 MW of community solar projects that serve at least 50% low- to moderate-income households. The program provides bill savings of 50% of the value produced by each subscriber’s share of the project. The Illinois Solar for All program was recognized for its success in delivering access to solar energy to over 1,200 low- to moderate-income households, meaningful household savings, opportunities for community ownership, equitable workforce development, as well as its use of community participation in program design and inclusive outreach best practices.    

Overcoming Solar Barriers for Multifamily Housing 

Washington | Olympia Community Solar  

This project is a non-profit owned community solar project in Olympia, WA that provides over 30% bill savings to a community of 100% low- to moderate-income residents. The Overcoming Solar Barriers for Multifamily Housing project was recognized for its success in delivering access to solar energy to 82 low- to moderate-income households, providing meaningful household savings, and its use of community participation in project design.  

Prologis Community Solar  

New Jersey | Solar Landscape LLC  

This is a 2.67 MW community solar project on top of a warehouse in Perth Amboy, NJ that provides energy bill savings to over 400 nearby low- to moderate-income households and workforce development opportunities for the community. The Prologis Community Solar project was recognized for its success in delivering access to solar energy to over 200 low- to moderate-income households and its equitable workforce development practices, as well as its use of inclusive outreach best practices.   

Solar at Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) 

Massachusetts | Sunwealth Power Inc.  

This is a portfolio of three solar canopies built on a synagogue in Acton, Massachusetts that supports both the synagogue’s building and low- to moderate-income households in the local community. The Solar at Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) project was recognized for its success in delivering access to solar energy to 16 low- to moderate-income households, for providing meaningful household savings, and for its use of inclusive outreach best practices. 

Staying Sunny in Colorado 

Colorado | Xcel Energy Colorado  

This investor-owned utility-led program supports 6 MW of community solar projects dedicated to 100% low- to moderate-income households in Xcel utility territory in Colorado, providing over 30% bill savings on average to subscribers. The Staying Sunny in Colorado program was recognized for its success in providing access to solar energy to over 900 low- to moderate-income households, providing meaningful household savings, and for its use of inclusive outreach best practices. 

Meaningful Benefit Award Winner 

Co-op Solar: Owned by the People   

Oregon | Oregon Clean Power Cooperative  

This cooperatively owned portfolio of two community solar projects prioritizes community resilience and collective ownership in Garibaldi, Nehalem, and Phoenix, Oregon. The Co-op Solar: Owned by the People portfolio was awarded the Resilience and Grid Benefits Meaningful Benefit Award in recognition of its success in providing resilience benefits to the communities where the projects are located.  

Thank you to all teams that applied for the 2023 Sunny Awards. Find more information about the National Community Solar Partnership and how you can support equitable community solar development in the U.S. on the DOE website. 


Congratulations to the 2023 Sunny Awards Finalists!

Sept. 11, 2023, 12:10 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office recently announced the seven finalists for the 2023 Sunny Awards. Each finalist team will receive a $2,500 cash prize and will advance in the competition to compete for Grand Prize, Meaningful Benefit, and Engagement Awards.  

This year’s program challenged teams to meet ambitious requirements that showcased the ability of their community solar projects and programs to deliver multiple meaningful benefits. These seven teams nominated community solar projects and programs that met eligibility criteria and successfully demonstrated the delivery of meaningful benefits to subscribers and their communities. 

Read more about the seven finalists and their commitment to expanding community solar.

The following teams are recognized as Finalists for the 2023 Sunny Awards:  

Overcoming Solar Barriers for Multifamily Housing (Led by Olympia Community Solar, Washington): This team partnered with a low-income apartment building in 2020 to develop a solution for installing community solar on an individually metered multifamily housing project. The resulting project serves 100% low- to moderate-income households and saves residents over 30% on their household electricity bills.  

Brownfield to Brightfield (Led by City of Urbana, Illinois): This team developed a community solar project on a closed, city-owned landfill that was otherwise undevelopable. These projects occupy approximately 20 acres on the capped landfill, contain nearly 14,000 solar panels, and generate a combined 5.3 MW of clean energy. Ten percent of the project capacity is subscribed by the City of Urbana and the remaining 90% provides bill savings to exclusively low- to moderate-income households in the utility territory. 

Staying Sunny in Colorado (Led by Xcel Energy Colorado, Colorado): This team developed 6 MW of utility-owned community solar gardens that serve exclusively income-qualified customers. These community solar projects provide an average 30% bill savings to over 900 households and leverages the support of a statewide nonprofit to find, educate, and enroll eligible subscribers.  

Illinois Solar for All (Led by Illinois Power Agency, Illinois): The Illinois Solar for All program is an income-eligible solar incentive program that delivers benefits to more than 1,100 residential households in Illinois with incomes 80% or less of area median income. The program provides bill savings equal to at least 50% of the value produced by each subscriber’s share of the project. 

Co-op Solar: Owned by the People (Led by Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, Oregon): This cooperatively-owned project portfolio of two community solar projects prioritize community resilience and collective ownership at a fire station and school district buildings in the cities of Garibaldi, Nehalem, and Phoenix, Oregon. These projects include batteries that can provide emergency power for lighting and wall outlet circuits in the event of a grid outage. 

Solar at CBE (Led by Sunwealth Power Inc., Massachusetts): This portfolio of three solar canopies built on a synagogue in Acton, Massachusetts, provides subscriptions and bill savings to both the synagogue’s building and low- to moderate-income households in the local community.  

Prologis Community Solar Transforms Brownfield (Led by Solar Landscape LLC, New Jersey): This 2.67 MW community solar project installed on top of a warehouse in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, that provides energy bill savings to over 400 nearby low- to moderate-income households and workforce development opportunities for the community.  


DUE TODAY: Feedback for 2023 Sunny Awards

Aug. 3, 2023, 11:08 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Don’t forget, the prize administrators want to hear feedback from you! Your feedback helps improve the application process, indicates an interest in future prize funding, and contributes to new programs that support community solar. 

Consider the following when providing feedback: 

  • Official Rules – Were the rules confusing or unclear for any portions of the prize? 
  • Eligibility – Was your project or program unable to meet the eligibility requirements for the prize? 
  • Prize Amount – Were the awards offered through this prize inconsistent with the level of effort required to apply? 

Please email your comments and feedback to SunnyAwards@nrel.govby TODAY, Aug. 3. We look forward to hearing from you! 


Rescheduled: Community Ownership Webinar

July 24, 2023, 9:09 a.m. PDT by Carlie Ortiz

Tomorrow, July 25, is your last chance to attend a Building with Benefits webinar. Tomorrow’s topic will be community ownership. (Don’t forget, you can watch recordings of past webinars.) 

Over the past few weeks, webinar attendees have learned about potential roadblocks and creative solutions around generating household savings, increasing resiliency, providing better access to LMI households, and much more. Each of these topics are recognized by the Sunny Awards as Meaningful Benefits and play a crucial role in the growth of community solar in the U.S. Find recordings of past webinar topics here.

 

Topic: Community Ownership

Time: 2:00 p.m. ET

Register here to attend.

 

We look forward to hearing your questions! 


Forum1
Teams192
Entries
Resources
FAQ