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Community Power Accelerator Prize

Fast-tracks the efforts of solar developers to learn and grow their operations to support multiple, successful community solar projects.

This challenge is closed

stage:
Phase 2 Winner Announcement (Anticipated)
prize:
$10,000,000

This challenge is closed

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Summary

Overview

Community Power AcceleratorTM Prize 

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 grow a robust ecosystem of community solar project developers that incorporate meaningful benefits into projects across the United States.

Structured to Accelerate Community Solar Investments

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, including: 

  • Tools and resources to connect developers with private sector project financing for community solar projects using a standardized process.
  • Training to understand the full cycle of community solar development, including site acquisition, community relations, customer acquisition, securing financing, costs, and the unique challenges and benefits of a community solar model.
  • Free consulting services to competitors on the steps necessary to get a community solar project financed.
  • Coaching on expanding developers’ solar customer markets to include low- and moderate-income populations, disadvantaged communities, and local workforce development, as well as increase resilience to power outages and household savings to make community solar projects attractive to the widest range of customers possible.  

By the end of the prize, competitors will be ready to engage with the Community Power Accelerator online platform, which provides a place for competitors to shop their credit-ready projects around to verified project developers, investors, and philanthropic organizations.

Informational Webinar

On Feb. 1, 2023, prize administrators held an informational webinar on the Community Power Accelerator Prize. During the webinar, we gave participants an overview of the prize, submission requirements, scoring criteria, and winner selection process. Prize administrators also answered audience questions. 

 Stream a recording of the informational webinar to learn more about the Community Power Accelerator Prize.

 

Community Power Accelerator Prize Phases

Prize Phase

Duration

Anticipated Number of Awards

Dollar Amounts 

Phase 1: Ready!

2 Months

Up to 25, 

with an expected range of 15-25

$50,000 per winning competitor 

(total prize pool: $1,250,000)

Phase 2: Set! 

6 months (anticipated)

Up to 25, 

with an expected range of 15-20

$200,000 per winning competitor 

(total prize pool: $5,000,000)

Phase 3: Grow!

6 months (anticipated)

Up to 25, 

with an expected range of 10-20

$150,000 per winning competitor

(total prize pool: $3,750,000)

 

The Five Meaningful Benefits of Community Solar

One of the key goals of the Community Power Accelerator Prize is to support and grow a robust ecosystem of community solar project developers that incorporate meaningful benefits into projects across the United States.These benefits provided by community solar subscriptions can build consumer trust and ensure that everyone can participate in the clean energy transition. 

The Community Power Accelerator Prize provides funding and resources to empower developers to deploy community solar projects that provide at least two of the following five meaningful benefits to subscribers and their communities:

  • Low- to moderate-income (LMI) household access
  • Greater household savings
  • Resilience and grid benefits
  • Community ownership
  • Equitable workforce development

Powering Change Beyond the Prize

This prize is part of the larger Community Power Accelerator program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy National Community Solar Partnership. It brings together investors, philanthropic organizations, developers, community-based organizations, and technical experts in one online ecosystem to accelerate the deployment of the funds needed to drive a more equitable clean energy transition. 

The Community Power Accelerator online platform will create a pipeline of credit-ready community solar projects—particularly those that provide benefits to underserved communities—and connect them with mission-aligned investors and philanthropic organizations to get funding.

The prize supports this initiative by providing funding and resources to stand up or expand community solar project development practices and develop a pipeline of multiple projects for new community solar project developers.

 

Who Can Compete? 

The Community Power Accelerator Prize is open to U.S. community solar developers, including new developers, co-developers (organizations who are partnering with a project developer), or developers who are expanding their community solar operations. 

The prize encourages organizations who are new to community solar development to apply to this prize, including (but are not limited to): 

  • Multifamily affordable housing providers
  • Community and economic development organizations 
  • Intermediary organizations such as community development financial institutions
  • Community-based organizations that have real estate portfolios and/or are in construction 
  • General contractors with roofing and/or electrical experience  
  • Traditional solar project developers who are looking to expand into the community solar space
  • Socially and economically disadvantaged individual (SEDI) demographics-related business and women and minority-owned businesses. 
  • Other large real estate holders that could be available for solar deployment

Guidelines

Challenge 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 

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 American-Made Community Power Accelerator Prize is directed and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more.

Timeline
Updates15

Challenge Updates

Seven Additional Teams Move on to Phase 3

April 17, 2024, 10 a.m. PDT by Carlie Ortiz

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) today announced seven additional Phase 2 winners of the Community Power Accelerator Prize. Each team received $200,000 based on their submissions and conveyed efforts throughout Phase 2 and will now compete for a $150,000 cash prize in Phase 3. 

In Phase 2, teams completed an instructor-led Learning Lab course, worked alongside technical assistance coaches to refine their Phase 2 project profiles, and created impactful investor pitch decks. Now in Phase 3, competitors will begin to fully engage on the Community Power Accelerator platform to secure investment commitments from investors and philanthropic organizations.

Congratulations to the seven additional teams moving on to Phase 3

  • Bonneville Environmental Foundation (Portland, OR) 

Submission: Sunward: Building Community Energy Together

  • Green Energy Justice Cooperative, Inc (Chicago, IL) 

Submission: Ready! Green Energy Justice Cooperative

  • North End Woodward Community Coalition (Detroit, MI)

Submission: Solar Neighbors-Making the Motor City a Solar City

  • Rare, Inc. (Boston, MA)

Submission: Boston SHINE: solar and workforce development

  • RETI Center(Brooklyn, NY)

Submission: RETI Center Local Power NYC

  • Solar United National (Mount Pleasant, SC)

Submission: Solar United National empowers communities

  • SunShare LLC(New Mexico)

Submission: New Mexico Expansion

Learn more about the 13 teams moving on to Phase 3 in the Teams tab, and find detailed information about their Phase 3 deliverables in the Official Rules. Phase 3 winners will be announced at the end of 2024. 

Congratulations to all winning teams!


Congratulations to the First Six Phase 2 Winning Teams!

Nov. 1, 2023, 10 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office today announced the six winning teams moving on to Phase 3 of the Community Power Accelerator Prize. Each team received $200,000 based on their submissions and conveyed efforts throughout Phase 2 and will now compete for a $150,000 cash prize.  

Competitors were granted a rolling submission deadline for Phase 2—submit the required materials by Aug. 29 for an opportunity to either advance to Phase 3 or receive direct feedback and re-submit by the second Phase 2 deadline. The remaining 19 teams in Phase 2 have until January 12, 2024, to submit their updated materials.  

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In Phase 2, teams completed an instructor-led Learning Lab course, worked alongside technical assistance coaches to refine their Phase 2 project profiles, and created impactful investor pitch decks. From the first round of Phase 2 submissions, the following teams will advance to the third and final phase:  

  • 548 Energy Solutions (Chicago, IL) 
    Submission: Affordable Power for Chicago
  • ADL Ventures (Chicago, IL) 
    Submission: Condo to the Farm (C2F) 
  • Mana Pacific Inc. (Kihei, HI) 
    Submission: Community Solar for Molokai, HI, and American Samoa 
  • Oregon Clean Power Cooperative (Corvallis, OR) 
    Submission: Out of the Ashes: Southern Oregon Community Solar 
  • Orleans Parish School Board (New Orleans, LA) 
    Submission: Solar Investment for a Sustainable School District 
  • Sovereign Resiliency Partners, LLC (Masphee, MA) 
    Submission: Community Solar for Native American Reservations 

Read more about the six teams moving on to Phase 3.  

Throughout the next phase, competitors will begin to fully engage on the Community Power Accelerator platform to secure investment commitments from investors and philanthropic organizations. For more information on the Community Power Accelerator Prize Phase 3, please review the Official Rules. 

We can’t wait to see what these competitors do next!  


Community Power Accelerator Round 2 Now Open

Aug. 14, 2023, 1:55 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Learn more and sign-up for Community Power Accelerator Round 2: http://herox.com/communityPowerAcceleratorround2

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) announced the second round of the American-Made Community Power Accelerator Prize: Accessing Capital to Deploy Equitable Community Solar. This $10 million prize competition is designed to fast-track the efforts of new, emerging, and expanding solar developers, co-developers, community organizations, local governments, and Tribal organizations to learn, participate, and grow their operations to support multiple successful community solar projects. 

Competitors will participate in three phases of competition—Ready!, Set!, and Grow!—with up to 25 winners selected in each round. Individually, each competitor can win up to $400,000 over the course of the prize. 

Community solar is a form of solar energy generation that allows all community members to access the meaningful benefits of renewable energy, particularly those with low-to-moderate incomes, renters, and those for whom traditional rooftop solar is unavailable.    

The prize is a critical component of the Community Power Accelerator, a network of developers, investors, philanthropists, and community-based organizations that works together to ensure equitable community solar projects are adequately financed and deployed.  

These cash prizes will enable mission-aligned developers and other groups to expand their staff and operations, and to design and deploy multiple community solar projects that use replicable business models and prioritize equitable access. These projects and models will expand community solar and drive new capital to community solar across the country. 

In addition to earning cash prizes, winners will participate in a learning lab, and obtain technical assistance to further scope out their project portfolios to get them ready for financing. Through this process, the teams will develop skills critical to deploying hundreds of megawatts of equitable community solar, which support NCSP’s goal of 20 gigawatts by 2025.  

The deadline to apply for the Ready! contest is October 4, 2023.  

Register for the next informational webinar on September 19 at 3 p.m. ET to hear more about the prize program.  


Draft Phase 3 Rules Now Available for Feedback on HeroX

July 24, 2023, 4:10 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

The draft Phase 3 rules are now live and prize administrators are seeking feedback from this community. We encourage everyone to read the draft Phase 3 rules and use this form to share comments through August 11, 2023. 

Additional Draft Phase 3 templates are also available for review and feedback: 

Thank you in advance for your time and input! 

 


Meet the Community Power Accelerator Prize Phase 1 Winners

May 5, 2023, 7:28 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

The Community Power Accelerator Prize recently awarded 25 teams $50,000 and the opportunity to move on to Phase 2 of this prize. In Phase 1, winning teams were recognized as successful new and expanding community solar developers in the early stages of a community solar project development.  

Now in Phase 2, competitors will receive direct coaching and mentorship to help them prepare their project to receive financing. All Phase 2 teams are also eligible to win a cash prize of $200,000 for completing the phase requirements. 

Read more about the 25 teams moving on to Phase 2. 

  • 548 Energy Solutions, 548 Energy Solutions: Affordable Power for Chicago (Illinois): This team is developing community solar on existing affordable housing development in Chicago. This will help contribute to Illinois’ solar developmental goals while providing beneficial savings to low-income community members.
     
  • ADL Solutions LLC, Condo to the Farm (Illinois): This team is curating community solar growth in three of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods—all within the 90th percentile of low income. This will increase household energy savings, contribute to workforce development, and help build long-term wealth within these communities. 
     
  • AV3 Energy, Create a Path for Rural Missouri Towns to Go Solar (Missouri): This team is spearheading the first community solar developments in Missouri with strong support from state partners. This will increase statewide education around renewable energy and create opportunities to grow community solar.
     
  • Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Sunward: Building Community Energy Together, (Oregon): This team is expanding their reach and contributing to the diversification of the solar industry, specifically within low-income communities and communities of color. This will develop consistent workforce opportunities and create meaningful household savings.
     
  • Climate Impact Capital Energy Holdings. LLC, Team Impact: Project Renew (Texas): This team is developing community solar in Port Arthur, a refinery town with an evident need for renewable energy. This will provide both financial and environmental aid to a community that experiences frequent power outages and air quality issues, while contributing to workforce development. 
     
  • Colorado Farm and Food Alliance, Thistle Whistle Farm + Community Agrivoltaics (Colorado): This team is cultivating an innovative greenhouse and multiple community solar developments on small- to mid-sized farms. These efforts will be a model for community solar in hard-to-reach transitioning economies and help facilitate clean-up of coal-mine waste methane across the county.
     
  • Community Through Colors, Vieques Microgrid (Puerto Rico): This team is providing support and mentorship around community solar within a deeply underserved area of Puerto Rico. This will create improved trust in clean energy initiatives, amplify workforce development, and forge a path for other rural community solar projects. 
     
  • Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, Mastering Microgrids in the Mountain (Puerto Rico): This team is deploying hundreds of microgrids within multiple disadvantaged communities across Puerto Rico. This effort, in addition to establishing community resiliency centers, will provide better access to power in the event of a natural disaster or outage and create meaningful workforce development.
     
  • Energy Allies, Energy Allies Community Led Community Owned Solar (Massachusetts): This team is working with an array of reputable Boston-based entities, including the City of Boston's Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, to increase community solar development and diversify their current portfolio. This will bring better access to solar for low- to moderate-income households and provide a minimum of 20% savings for income-qualified families.
     
  • Green Energy Justice Cooperative, Inc., Ready! Green Energy Justice Cooperative (Illinois): This team is transitioning a historically successful Minnesota-based community solar model to Illinois. This will reduce energy costs by 30% for their members, creating 150 jobs and continued economic opportunities, as well as increase resiliency through battery storage for grid failures.
     
  • Groundswell Inc, Accelerating Community-Owned Community Power! (Washington, D.C.): This team is developing a scalable model for leveraging the Inflation Reduction Act direct-pay provision for community-owned community solar projects. This will provide greater access to solar in disadvantaged communities while expanding into new areas of support in resiliency.
     
  • Legacy Solar Wisconsin Cooperative, Legacy Solar Co-op (Wisconsin): This team is seeking to bring community solar to a state with little solar development or policies to support its growth. This will increase community education and engagement, and contribute to long-term household savings.
     
  • Mana Pacific Inc, Hawaii's First 100% Community-Owned Solar Projects (Hawaii): This team is planning to scale up to 16.5MWh of battery storage and 30 MW of energy across the islands, as well as evaluate the impact of reducing Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives will allow the local community to provide 20% of Moloka’i’s electricity needs.
     
  • North End Woodward Community Coalition, Solar Neighbors-Making the Motor City a Solar City (Michigan): This team is building upon a unique Sustainable Energy Utility model that involves outfitting Detroit-based low- to moderate-income households, nonprofits, and small businesses with rooftop/ground-mounted solar. The profits from these individual systems will then be reinvested into a revolving fund for additional solar installations.
     
  • Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, Oregon Clean Power Cooperative (Oregon): This team is developing 5 community solar projects in rural areas and small towns throughout Oregon. This work, in partnership with Oregon State University, will bring the benefits of community solar to disadvantaged neighborhoods and provide opportunities for additional agrivoltaics research.
     
  • Orleans Parish School Board, Solar Investment for a Sustainable School District (Louisiana): This team is using available land and building space, as well as districtwide support to bring community solar to the New Orleans Public Schools system. This will bring beneficial financial savings to economically disadvantaged families in the district and provide a strong example for other school systems across the United States.
     
  • People United for Sustainable Housing, Community Power Buffalo (New York): This team is leveraging their experience in affordable housing to build more community solar. They are increasing organizational staff capacity, building expertise around project management, and investing in language access for their existing solar projects. This will ensure engagement and participation in future community solar projects within underserved neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York.
     
  • Rare Inc., Boston SHINE: Solar and Workforce Development (Massachusetts): This team is building a robust workforce development program to support trainees to develop rooftop community solar projects within underserved areas of south Boston. This will create significant community savings and establish scalable solar in areas of great need. 
     
  • SAGE Development Authority/ Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Renewable Energy Power Authority, Standing Rock Community Solar Project (North Dakota): This team is establishing several 150-kW community solar farms over a 3-year period using in-tribe developers and leadership. This will introduce community solar to underutilized lands in both North Dakota and South Dakota, creating a model for future tribal initiatives across the country. 
     
  • Solar United National, LLC, Solar United National Empowers Communities (South Carolina): This team is planning to scale community solar throughout South Carolina and gain a deeper understanding of funding requirements, solar regulations, and utility negotiations. The development of these solar sites, all including a community solar farm and community-owned training building, will increase community savings and access to solar in the Southeast United States. 
     
  • Son Solar Inc., Community Solar, Solar Jobs, Equity and Resilience (Mississippi): This team is partnering with established solar developers in the South to create the first community solar system in Mississippi. Their work will forge new pathways to solar for the state and its underserved communities. 
     
  • Sovereign Resiliency Partners, LLC, Community Solar for Native American Reservations (Massachusetts): This team is establishing community solar developments on tribal lands within California. With tribal support for site control and development, this will create a strong foundation for community solar within the state.
     
  • SunShare, LLC, New Mexico Expansion (Colorado): This team is expanding community solar across New Mexico and developing strong communication tactics to inform potential users. This will help create transparent expectations around community solar for cities in need of renewable energy, including tribal lands across the state. 
     
  • The Resilience Education Training and Innovation Center Limited, RETI Center Local Power NYC (New York): This team seeks to improve urban climate resilience in communities through resiliency-focused economic development, education, and financing initiatives. This will create opportunities for community solar ownership and impactful energy savings of 15-50% for low- to moderate-income households. 
     
  • UPROSE, UPROSE x Working Power Community Owned Solar (New York): This team is scaling community solar across 23 identified lots in the underserved, primarily Latino Sunset Park neighborhood. This will provide at least a 15-20% electricity bill discount and engage with property owners in the surrounding area on the reliable benefits of community solar. 

We look forward to what these teams will accomplish in Phase 2!    


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