The Community Power Accelerator Prize: Accessing Capital to Deploy Equitable Community Solar, launched on January 19, 2023, 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 expand a robust ecosystem of community solar project developers that incorporate meaningful benefits into projects across the United States.
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 part of the Community Power AcceleratorTM, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) that connects developers, investors, philanthropists, and community-based organizations to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. The accelerator provides training, technical assistance, and an online platform to support the critical connections necessary to finance and expand access to affordable community solar.
The Community Power Accelerator Prize will help achieve NCSP’s goal to enable enough community solar to power the equivalent of 5 million households and create $1 billion in household savings by 2025, by addressing the lack of expertise, capacity, and pre-development funds for community solar developers, and accelerating a pipeline of projects with meaningful benefits.
The Community Power Accelerator Prize will award up to $10 million in cash prizes to competitors over three rounds. These cash prizes will enable mission-aligned developers to expand their staff and operations 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 across the country and drive new capital sources to community solar.
Competitors should be community solar project developers or co-developers interested in expanding their staff and operations and incorporating meaningful benefits into multiple community solar projects, either through an existing project portfolio of at least 1 megawatt (MW) or with plans to develop at least 1 MW of community solar. Developers or co-developers can include organizations that are newly established, have developed only a few community solar projects, or that aspire to stand up a new organization or a new business line supporting multiple community solar projects. Organizations seeking to develop a single community solar project are not eligible for this prize competition.
To be recognized by the Community Power Accelerator Prize, competitors must show notable progress in project pre-development activities. These include designing, financing, incorporating equity, and enabling access to at least two of “The Five Meaningful Benefits of Community Solar” identified by NCSP: low- to moderate-income household access, greater household savings, resilience and grid benefits, community ownership, and equitable workforce development.
Over the course of the prize, competitors will 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.
The prize consists of three phases–Ready!, Set!, and Grow!–with up to 25 winners selected in each round. In phase 1, competitors can each win up to $50,000. In phase 2, competitors can each win up to $200,000. In phase 3, competitors can each win up to $150,000.
- Phase 1 opened on January 19, 2023.
- An informational webinar will be held on February 1, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. ET.
- Phase 1 final submissions are due on March 15, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET.
- Phase 1 winners are expected to be announced in April 2023.
- Register to compete in the Community Power Accelerator Prize.
- Download the rules for the competition.
- Register for the informational webinar on February 1, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. ET.
- Learn more about the Community Power Accelerator.
- Join the National Community Solar Partnership.
- Explore the DOE solar office’s research on equitable access to solar energy.
- Read the summary of the DOE Equitable Access to Community Solar Request for Information to learn more about the barriers to community solar access.
- Understand the basics of community solar.