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Community Power Accelerator Round 2

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:
Judging
prize:
$10,000,000

This challenge is closed

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Summary
Timeline
Updates13
Forum11
Teams368
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Summary

Overview

The American-Made Community Power Accelerator PrizeTM 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

After a successful launch of the Community Power Accelerator Prize in early 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office is excited to open the prize for Round 2. Applicants who applied to Round 1 are encouraged to apply again in Round 2 with updated submission materials.

The goal of Round 2 remains the same as Round 1—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

Round 2 of 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 Webinars

On Aug. 1 and Sept. 19, prize administrators will hold informational webinars on the Community Power Accelerator Prize. During the webinar, we’ll provide participants with an overview of the prize, submission requirements, scoring criteria, and winner selection process. Prize administrators will also answer audience questions. 

Register for the September webinar to learn more about Round 2 of the Community Power Accelerator Prize.  A recording of the previously held August Information webinar is available on HeroX.

Community Power Accelerator Round 2 Prize Phases

Prize Phase

Duration

Anticipated Number of Awards

Dollar Amounts 

Phase 1: Ready!

3 Months

Up to 25

$50,000 per winning competitor 

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

Phase 2: Set! 

4-7 months (anticipated)

Up to 25

$200,000 per winning competitor 

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

Phase 3: Grow!

4-7 months (anticipated)

Up to 25

$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? 

Round 2 of 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): 

  • Community-based organizations (such as local community health organizations, community action agencies, community, and economic development organizations etc.) that have real estate portfolios and/or are in construction
  • Multifamily affordable housing providers
  • State, local, and municipal governments
  • Intermediary organizations such as community development financial institutions (CDFIs)
  • General contractors with roofing and/or electrical experience  
  • 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
  • Solar co-developers

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 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
Updates13

Challenge Updates

Congratulations to the 25 Round 2 Phase 1 Winning Teams!

Jan. 10, 2024, 7:40 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office today announced the 25 Phase 1 winning teams of the Community Power Accelerator Prize Round 2. Each team will receive a $50,000 cash prize and the opportunity to compete in Phase 2.  

After a successful launch of the Community Power Accelerator Prize Round 1 in early 2023, the prize administrators were impressed by the enthusiastic response to Round 2 of the prize, as well. With more than 75 distinguished applications submitted to Round 2, the prize judges were challenged to choose only 25 winning teams.  

Read a brief summary of the winning submissions below and find more about each team here.  

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, MD, 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 non-profit 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 Conservation Works | Wyoming 

Energy Conservation Works, a non-profit 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 non-profit 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 1MW 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 non-profit 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 non-profit 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 non-profit 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 (6MW 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 Energy 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 1MW 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 non-profit 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've 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 non-profit 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.  

Thank you to all who applied!  

 


New Prize Email Address

Dec. 5, 2023, 11:06 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

Hey, competitors! 

Round 2 of the Community Power Accelerator Prize has a new email address for competitors to send any prize-related questions or comments: communitypower@nrel.gov. If you’re currently emailing with a prize administrator, you may see the previous prize email included () but this address should no longer be used for new correspondence.

Additional Resources

Don’t forget, competitors can also utilize the Forum Tab on HeroX to raise questions and a prize administrator will publicly answer them as soon as possible. Plus, the Official Rules document has key information, including details on submission scoring and prize phases. 

Thank you!


All Prize Submissions Due TOMORROW

Oct. 3, 2023, 9:05 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Hey, competitors! 

Don’t forget TOMORROW, Oct. 4, by 5 p.m. ET, is the deadline to submit your Community Power Accelerator Prize Round 2 application. The prize administrators highly recommend uploading your submission as early as possible to avoid connectivity issues or upload delays. 

Here’s what you’ll need to submit through HeroX:  

Find more details about the required submission materials and the Community Solar course registration in the Official Rules.  

We can’t wait to see your application! 


REMINDER: Submission Deadline Oct. 4

Sept. 26, 2023, 2:30 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Don’t forget the deadline to submit your Community Power Accelerator Prize Round 2 application is next Wednesday, Oct. 4, by 5 p.m. ET. The prize administrators highly recommend uploading your submission as early as possible to avoid connectivity issues or upload delays. 

Here’s a quick reminder of what you need to submit:  

Introduction to Community Solar Course 

The Introduction to Community Solar Course is intended to help teams understand how community solar developers can build projects that include the Five Meaningful Benefits. The course is approximately 3–4 hours (including videos, reading assignments, quizzes, and self-assessment). You can go at your own pace and start and stop as you wish. Register for the course online here.  

At least one member of the lead organization must complete the Introduction to Community Solar Course and submit to HeroX the email they used to register for the course as well as the date of completion as evidence. 

Organizations who have already completed and passed the Introduction to Community Solar course within the past year will not be required to retake the course for Phase 1. However, they will be required to provide the email used to register for the course as well as the date of completion. Find more details about this course in the Official Rules Section 5.5.  

Resource Recap 

  • Find more information related to unanswered questions from the webinar Q&A’s in this spreadsheet or use the Forum Tab to ask your own questions. A prize administrator will publicly respond to your question there.   
  • Fill out a teaming form (through prize Power Connector ADL Ventures) if you’re interested in teaming up with a solar developer or community-based organization.    
  • Read the Official Rules before submitting your application by Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. ET.   

We hope to see a submission from you!  


Second Informational Webinar Recording Now Available

Sept. 22, 2023, 1 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Questions about Round 2 of the Community Power Accelerator Prize? Watch a recording of the first or second Informational Webinar at any time. The slides and information covered during each webinar is the same, but the questions asked during the live Q&A are unique.  

During the webinar, prize administrators gave an overview of the prize, including:

  • Key milestones   
  • Prize eligibility  
  • Submission requirements  
  • How to navigate HeroX.  

This information, and more, can be found in the Official Rules document. We highly recommend reading the rules in their entirety before uploading a submission.  

Resource Reminders 

  • Find more information related to unanswered questions from the webinar Q&A’s in this spreadsheet or use the Forum Tab to ask your own questions. A prize administrator will publicly respond to your question there.  
  • Fill out a teaming form (through prize Power Connector ADL Ventures) if you’re interested in teaming up with a solar developer or community-based organization.   
  • Read the Official Rules before submitting your application by Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. ET.  

We can’t wait to review your submission!  


Forum11
Teams368
Entries
Resources
FAQ