The Community Power AcceleratorTM connects developers, investors, philanthropists, and community-based organizations to create an ecosystem of partners that work together to get more equity-focused community solar projects financed and deployed. Part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP), the accelerator 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 these projects funded.
Equitable access to project funding is one of the most persistent barriers to community solar development. It represents one of the five National Community Solar Partnership initiatives on its Pathway to Success. To deploy smaller community solar projects, especially in underserved communities, developers need expertise, capacity, and access to predevelopment funds to prepare materials for funding applications.
Launched on January 19, 2023, the Community Power Accelerator (formerly known as the Credit-Ready Solar Initiative) provides the resources and network of lending institutions, philanthropic organizations, and community solar developers to support a more efficient and equitable distribution of the capital needed to develop community solar that delivers meaningful benefits to subscribers and their communities.
The Community Power Accelerator has nearly 30 inaugural lending, investor, and philanthropic partners that will leverage over $5 billion in private sector capital. This private sector funding will help finance the community solar projects and portfolios that utilize the accelerator.
We are thankful to the following inaugural partners for jumpstarting our online ecosystem of mission-aligned community solar stakeholders. For the most up-to-date list of partners, you can view the accelerator participants map.
Clean Energy Fund of Texas
Climate Impact Capital
Community Investment Guarantee Pool
Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority
Inclusive Prosperity Capital
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Montgomery County Green Bank
Virginia Community Capital
Baltimore Community Foundation
Wells Fargo Foundation
Bluestem Energy Solutions
Community Power Group
Lake Street Solar
How It Works
The Community Power Accelerator provides the tools, training, and support that developers need to get their projects “credit-ready”—or ready to seek funding from investors and philanthropic organizations. Ultimately, the accelerator will build a pipeline of verified, credit-ready projects with an equity focus that will speed deployment and increase investor confidence in community solar projects.
A credit-ready community solar project has clearly defined financing, ownership, and subscriber models, is designed to maximize meaningful benefits to subscribers, and has a strong plan to get from conception to completion. The Community Power Accelerator helps get projects to this point through the services and resources listed below.
COMMUNITY POWER ACCELERATOR PLATFORM
The Community Power Accelerator platform makes it easier for developers, community-based organizations, investors, and philanthropic organizations to identify and connect with each other. The accelerator platform will include profiles for organizations and potential projects, and information from these profiles can be used to help participants identify and connect with other organizations that may want to collaborate based on location, mission, or other criteria.
THE CREDIT-READY CHECKLIST
The Credit-Ready Checklist is the key resource that developers will use to get their projects ready to shop around to funders. Lenders, philanthropic organizations, and developers will use the items on this checklist to start initial conversations about funding for community solar projects.
The checklist contains nearly 50 important predevelopment considerations, including information about system size, siting, ownership, capital structure, revenues, and costs. It 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. Community solar developers will complete the items on the checklist with the help of resources provided by the accelerator.
NCSP provides free one-on-one technical assistance to accelerator participants as they complete the Credit-Ready Checklist, helping them address financial, technical, and regulatory challenges and develop their project plans. Technical assistance providers will also verify that each community solar project hosted on the accelerator platform is ready for initial conversations with investors and philanthropic organizations.
Please note that the technical assistance program does not provide financial assistance, accounting or tax advice, advocacy, or marketing support. Organizations must be an NCSP partner to apply for and receive technical assistance.
COMMUNITY POWER ACCELERATOR LEARNING LAB
The Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab provides training on community solar project development and business models for small and new developers, nonprofit organizations, cooperatives, intermediary organizations, and other organizations. It includes both a short self-paced 101 course as well as a more intensive seven-week course on the community solar development process. 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 NCSP and is available at no cost to participants.
Learn more and enroll in an upcoming Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab course.
COMMUNITY POWER ACCELERATOR PRIZE
The 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. Competitors can win up to $400,000 each over three prize rounds by showing notable progress in project pre-development activities.
Register to compete for the prize by October 4, 2023.
Who Can Participate?
- Developers execute new community solar projects, and can include established and new community solar developers, intermediaries, nonprofits, and community-based organizations. Developers can take training courses, put together project plans with help from DOE technical assistance providers, and share their prospective projects on the accelerator platform to connect with funding or find co-developers.
- Investors deploy capital for community solar development, and can include commercial banks, community development financial institutions, green banks, credit unions, crowdfunders, and others that want to be connected to a pipeline of credit-ready community solar projects.
- Philanthropic organizations include institutions, foundations, and other impact investors that want to be connected to community solar projects that provide meaningful benefits. These organizations connect with developers seeking predevelopment grants, program-related investments, capacity building, or other gap funding.
- Learn more on the Community Power Accelerator website.
- Register to join NCSP for updates on community solar news and programs.
- 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 for more information on the barriers to community solar access.
- Understand the basics of community solar.