Community solar is a rapidly growing model of solar development in the United States. Community solar provides households, businesses, and other energy users the opportunity to subscribe to a solar array in their community and allows for more equitable access to the benefits of clean energy, especially for households and businesses that cannot host a solar system on their own roofs.

To encourage the development of best practices and recognize community solar projects and programs that employ or develop best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities, DOE launched the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar (The Sunny Awards).

The strategies and solutions demonstrated by projects and programs recognized by the Sunny Awards help provide a blueprint for community solar developers, state energy offices, utilities, and others to help achieve the DOE’s target to power the equivalent of five million households with community solar by 2025, generating $1 billion in electricity bill savings.

The best practices outlined below have been created and shared by the winners of the 2022 Sunny Awards. You can find more information about these projects and programs on the Sunny Awards webpage and through materials developed during the ‘Building with Benefits: Meaningful Benefits as a Foundation for Equitable Community Solar’ webinar series that spotlighted the innovations of 2022 Sunny Awards winners and in the winners’ project fact sheets.

What Are the Meaningful Benefits of Community Solar?

In 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, which created a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.

DOE launched the Justice40 Initiative to advance this goal, identifying eight policy priorities to guide DOE’s implementation of the initiative.

In alignment with the DOE Justice40 priorities, and through stakeholder engagement, NCSP has defined a set of five meaningful benefits as outcomes for equitable community solar projects, including:

  • Greater Household Savings - Justice40 Priority 1: Reduce Energy Burden
    Community solar projects and programs can increase household savings for their subscribers. The 2022 Sunny Awards required that projects provide at least 20% electricity bill savings.
  • Low- to Moderate-Income Household Access - Justice40 Priority 3: Increase Clean Energy Parity
    Community solar projects and programs can prioritize access to subscriptions for low- and moderate-income households and ensure those subscriptions include strong consumer protections. The 2022 Sunny Awards required that projects reserve at least 40% of their capacity for low- to moderate-income households.
  • Increased Resilience and Grid Benefits - Justice40 Priority 7: Increase Energy Resiliency
    Community solar projects can help deliver power to households and critical facilities during grid outages or otherwise strengthen the resilience of the grid. This meaningful benefit encourages improved sizing and siting storage, resources that support increased resilience, and strategies that maximize the impact of resilience efforts for subscribers and their communities.
  • Community Ownership - Justice40 Priority 8: Increase Energy Democracy
    Community wealth-building, governance, and ownership are all crucial aspects of an equitable community solar project or program. This meaningful benefit supports initiatives that include ownership models, and strategies that scale wealth-building in underserved communities.
  • Equitable Workforce Development and Entrepreneurship - Justice40 Priority 6: Increase Clean Energy Jobs
    Community solar projects and programs can support training programs and recruitment strategies to reach diverse participants and increase interest in clean energy careers. Community solar can also prioritize development by women-owned and minority-owned businesses, and provide pathways to high-quality jobs with family-sustaining wages.
  • Innovation: Community Engagement 
    Inclusive and authentic community engagement includes practices in which community members define and drive the outcomes of the decision-making process to ensure that project benefits accrue to the community. When community members are authentically engaged, project developers are accountable and responsive to community priorities and needs, and the outcomes of a program or project will clearly reflect the priorities of community members, potentially lowering customer acquisition and retention costs for the developer.

How Do I Use This Guide?

This guide shares high-level best practices, successful strategies, and key resources for each of the five meaningful benefits, plus a section on community engagement. These best practices have helped other community solar developers prioritize equitable outcomes for their subscribers and the communities they work with. While the details of each example project or program are not discussed, you may follow the links to read more and learn how to connect with lead organizations.

Greater Household Savings

Community solar is often cited as a pathway to decreasing energy burdens for low-income households. Despite the exciting growth in community solar, not all community solar models lead to meaningful bill savings for households. Household savings of at least 20% provide a meaningful reduction in energy burdens and provides savings on par with the average savings from rooftop solar installations. To be recognized by the Sunny Awards, NCSP requires projects and programs to provide, on average, 20% savings to households.

Successful community solar projects and programs that provide at least a 20% reduction in household electricity costs often prioritize:

  • Community solar subscriptions at little to no cost to the subscriber. Most community solar subscriptions require an upfront or monthly subscription payment. Even though these monthly payments may be modest, projects that have low or no upfront or ongoing subscription costs can allow for greater savings, especially for low-income households. Eliminating the subscription cost for subscribers typically requires developers to identify and secure additional revenue streams. Developers may secure additional revenue through state incentives, such as those provided through the D.C. Solar for All and Illinois Solar for All programs. Developers may also be able to lower or eliminate subscription costs through innovative subscription models like Groundswell’s SharePower sliding scale model, which more equitably distributes costs and benefits among its subscribers.
  • Right-sizing community solar subscriptions to maximize savings. Requesting historic electric use from subscribers to better understand their usage patterns and project their energy demand can help to ensure subscribers sign up for the proper subscription size and maximize the savings from their subscription. The DC Solar for All program, for example, sizes each subscription so that the resulting community net metering credits will offset approximately 50% of the subscriber’s electric utility bills.
  • 'Anchor tenants’ to support additional cost savings. Developers can also leverage larger energy users, often called ‘anchor tenants’, to help reduce investors’ perceived risk of projects and lower their cost of capital. Anchor tenants typically subscribe to a large share of the energy produced by the project (sometimes up to 40-50% of the total project capacity). This guaranteed subscription can help offset risks associated with subscriber turnover or unsubscribed capacity. Addressing these risks may encourage lenders to offer lower interest rates on project financing. The savings generated from the lower cost of capital can then be passed on to subscribers. The Faribault Community Solar project provides an innovative example of leveraging an anchor tenant to drive savings through a flexible contract that automatically adjusts the anchor’s monthly subscription size to absorb any excess capacity or offset any unfilled subscriptions (up to 40% of the total project capacity).
  • Guaranteeing minimum bill savings.  Making a guaranteed rate of savings explicit in a subscriber’s community solar contract helps subscribers understand the value of their subscription and better plan for household expenses and savings. Projects such as Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households and JOE-4-SUN Ashland include guaranteed savings for participating households. If possible, it is a best practice to translate percentage of bill savings into an average dollar amount that the household would see saved monthly, or annually. There are different ways to calculate minimum bill savings—the important thing is that the message comes across clearly and transparently. For instance, the DC Solar for All program materials translate subscriber bill savings to an annual amount of about $500 per household (
  • Consumer protections for cost savings. Including key consumer protections in subscription contracts is critical to ensuring customers receive cost savings and are not exposed to unfair terms or financial risk as a result of their participation in community solar. Some key consumer protections include subscription contracts that have no upfront costs, no cancellations or exit fees, no sign-up fees, and generally no penalties, including for early termination of the contract. The Boston Properties – CityPoint – 500 Totten Pond project, for example, has no upfront cost to subscribe, no penalty for early termination, and does not use credit checks/scores as a requirement to subscribe in an effort to increase the accessibility, particularly for low- to moderate-income households.

Low- to Moderate-Income (LMI) Access

Although community solar capacity is growing rapidly, LMI households may face additional barriers to accessing its benefits. To improve accessibility of community solar projects that serve LMI households, NCSP requires projects and programs recognized through the Sunny Awards provide at least 40% of their project’s residential capacity to LMI households. Beyond providing a guaranteed percentage of LMI subscriptions, equitable community solar projects often address other barriers to LMI participation up front.

Innovative strategies for community solar projects and programs to better serve low- to moderate-income communities include:

  • Allow multiple payment methods. Some households may not have access to a bank account or qualify for a credit card. Projects like the JOE-4-SUN Ashland project provide various ways for households to pay their bills, such as a mailed check or cash in person, in addition to options to pay online with a credit or debit card to payment more accessible. Some projects also eliminate automatic payments to protect subscribers from bank account overdrafts and associated fees.
  • Accessible, real-time support for subscribers. Community solar projects and programs that serve LMI households often find better long-term success when consumers have a direct line of communication with their subscription provider and are given tools and support to stay in the program—not just to make payments. Subscription providers or program administrators can offer a hotline for consumers to call with questions about their bill and can provide regular communication and updates on the program and the subscribers’ accrued savings. Projects and programs can also include policies and resources to help customers who miss payments remain in the program. The JOE-4-SUN Ashland project, for example, does not collect late fees or interest on missed payments. They also do not report missed payments to a collections department or credit agency and maintain an open line of communication with subscribers, encouraging them to pay when they can.
  • Partnerships with community-based organizations to support education, outreach, and enrollment. Reaching and enrolling subscribers from LMI households can be challenging. Households may be wary of unrecognized energy providers, additional energy contracts, or offers that appear ‘too good to be true.’ It may also be more difficult to provide salient, just-in-time information about community solar opportunities to potential LMI subscribers, as LMI households often face additional time and capacity constraints. Developers can leverage community partners such as nonprofits, houses of worship or faith-based organizations, educational facilities, tenant associations, social service providers, and local elected officials to lead on efforts to create community buy-in, build awareness of community solar programming, and to build trust. Projects like Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households, the Santa Rosa Community Solar Project, and the White Marsh Community Solar Farm all partner with nonprofit organizations to support engagement and outreach to community members. Programs like Illinois Solar for All program provide funding for community-based organizations to serve as grassroots educators to connect income-eligible communities with potential community solar projects.
  • Clear, multilingual communication around savings, enrollment requirements, and program participation. LMI households have historically suffered from predatory energy products and contracts, in addition to other social and economic vulnerabilities. Therefore, clear, accessible communication with solar subscribers is especially crucial among LMI households. Communication materials should use plain language and should be written in the predominant languages spoken by households in the community the project or program serves. Subscription managers can use standard disclosure forms to ensure that subscribers have clear information on their subscription terms, fee structure, and associated savings. DC Solar for All, for example, hosts an easy-to-access terms sheet on their webpage that outlines benefits and requirements for all subscribers and offers a hotline that can support customer questions in multiple languages. Consolidated billing, which means that the subscriber’s utility bill includes community solar fees, is also a communications best practice, as having community solar and utility charges on one bill makes the subscription costs and benefits more manageable and less confusing for households. Consolidated billing can provide transparency and predictability in community solar savings and costs as well as reduced administrative complexity. Because of the benefits it affords subscribers, the Illinois Solar for All program requires that all participating project developers use consolidated billing. More information on all state policies on consolidated billing can be found in the Community Solar Consolidated Billing report, published by the National Association of State Energy Officials. 
  • Equitable verification and sign-up processes. Many projects and programs that provide additional benefits to LMI households require some form of income verification prior to participation. Complex verification processes, especially those that require additional paperwork, can be a barrier to LMI household access to community solar. Projects and programs like Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households and Illinois Solar for All, reduce these barriers by verifying households through their participation in other utility low-income programs or by automatically verifying households located in census tracts with high proportions of low-income households or other environmental justice concerns.
  • Opportunities for community buy-in, feedback, and job training. Involving subscribers in project design or other decisions, whether they pay a market-rate or income-based subscription rate, shows a long-term investment in their communities. Providing outlets for feedback and questions can strengthen community buy-in and commitment to solar access for their households. The Illinois Solar for All program, for example, requires that participating community solar projects include income-eligible community members’ feedback in the design of the initial project proposals. See the section on Community Engagement for more examples of community solar projects that leverage subscriber feedback and Equitable Workforce Development for examples of how projects have prioritized hiring locally and providing high-quality jobs.
  • Opportunities for subscribers to choose the subscription type that best meets their needs. All subscribers, regardless of their household income level, can benefit from the opportunity to select a subscription type or size that best meets their needs. Offering a clear set of subscription sizes and ways to structure the subscription payment (upfront payment, monthly installments, etc.) helps households have agency over their participation and energy costs.

Resiliency and Grid Benefits

Community solar and other distributed energy resources play an important role in the increased resilience of the nation’s electric grid. Rather than one generation source providing electricity for a large region, distributed solar energy systems like community solar can help provide a redundant energy source to surrounding communities. A backup energy source can supply access to power that will support community needs. Distributed solar energy systems, like community solar, can be strategically sited or include storage to help reduce the time of a grid outage or prevent an interruption in electricity delivery from the grid. Community solar that includes battery energy storage (community solar + storage) can also help power resilience hubs or other critical or emergency services to support community members in the event of an outage.

The projects and programs selected as Sunny Awards winners for their resilience efforts all include some form of battery storage. While other methods, such as strategic siting, grid management and load management, and sizing, may increase resilience, adding battery storage in project and program design is a leading method for providing resilience benefits to subscribers and their communities.

Community solar projects and programs that prioritize battery storage for increasing resilience may:

  • Size solar + storage systems to provide adequate emergency power during outages. A key motivation for adding battery storage to a community solar project can be to provide backup power to critical community facilities in the event of a grid outage. In these community solar + storage projects, the solar array is connected to a battery system that is typically sized to be able to power the ‘critical loads’ of the facility (i.e., overhead lights, refrigeration equipment, HVAC) for a certain number of hours. To be able to provide power during a grid outage, these systems must also be able to disconnect from the grid. These facilities can then draw power down from the battery system at night and use the energy produced by the solar panels to power critical load and charge the battery during the day. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Community Solar project includes a battery that can power lighting and key circuits in the event of an outage, allowing the building to serve as a ‘resilience hub’ and be used by community members in an emergency situation.
  • Develop a microgrid with battery storage to ‘island’ power in the event of an outage. A microgrid is a system that can isolate from the grid and operate independently. Similar to battery systems installed on a single facility, microgrids can disconnect an entire region of the distribution network from the grid for a number of hours, or, in some cases, indefinitely. Community solar microgrids, like the one developed for the Shungnak-Kobuk IPP project, use the power generated from a community solar array plus power stored in batteries connected to the system to provide power to multiple facilities for a number of hours (the Shungnak-Kobuk IPP project can power the entire community for 2 hours).
  • Leverage battery systems to maximize deployment and generate additional community resources. In addition to providing backup power in the event of a grid outage, battery storage can be used to maximize the amount of energy produced and generate additional revenue from a community solar project. Projects that include storage may be able to increase their size or avoid interconnection barriers by using the battery to manage when power is shared with the grid. This may also help projects generate additional revenue if they can take advantage of higher rates for energy generated during high demand hours or other programs offered by their utility. The Shungnak-Kobuk IPP project became an independent power producer (IPP) in order to produce and sell power to the utility. The added battery storage allows them to store and sell additional power. The profits that they generate from selling power to the utility is then invested into optimizing the size of arrays and storage of existing community solar projects and to fund future solar and storage developments
  • Explore flexible financing options for resiliency. Adding battery storage to a community solar project can significantly increase project costs. Many community solar projects that have implemented resilience measures, like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Community Solar project, have leveraged grant funding from external partners to cover these additional costs. Developers may consider regional partnerships, like what the Shungnak-Kobuk IPP project developed with the Northwest Artic Borough, to allow them to be competitive for and manage larger grants, including state and federal grants.

Community Ownership

When communities are given the chance to own their own electricity generation, they can gain more democratic control over decisions about their energy system, maximize the impact of financial incentives, create local resilience, and generate community wealth through increased economic development.

Community ownership is an important part of the long-term success of expanding equitable and just community solar, especially in underserved communities. Community solar projects and programs that promote community ownership have found success in providing:

  • Ownership models designed in response to community interests. Community ownership can be defined in multiple ways, but primarily refers to (1) direct or cooperative ownership of solar assets, (2) decision-making power over project siting and business outcomes, and/or (3) receipt of direct, intentional benefits, often delivered through Community Benefits Agreements or similar contracts. Different communities may want different levels or types of ownership, based on the benefits that are most important to them. Examples of different ownership models include:
    • Individual direct ownership: Some community solar projects allow members to directly purchase and own a portion of the solar array. Directly-owned projects are often small-scale, and locally sited, but can also be a part of a larger system. In some community solar projects, like the Hummingbird Community Solar Project, member-owners can directly claim the tax benefits from their share of the project. In other projects, like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Community Solar Project, the participant-owners can sell their ownership in the project as assets, maintaining the investment’s liquidity.
    • Member-owned cooperatives: In cooperative models, community solar subscribers become members in a cooperatively-owned business, meaning they are partial owners of the business that develops and manages the community solar projects. Cooperative members often have voting power, allowing them to participate in decisions related to project development or benefits structures. Cooperatives also typically provide members the opportunity to buy shares in organization up front or over time, and then receive regular dividends (in cash distributions or equity) from the cooperative’s profits. The Faribault Community Solar Project, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Community Solar Project, and the Dividends Return Commons Model are all examples of cooperatively-owned community solar projects.
    • Community Benefit Agreements: Community benefit agreements are legal agreements between community benefit groups and developers that outline the particular benefits a developer agrees to fund or furnish in exchange for community support of a project. In communities where direct or cooperative ownership is not desired, community benefit agreements can ensure community-driven benefits such as commitments to hire directly from a community, contributions to economic trust funds, local workforce training guarantees, and more.
  • Education and engagement on clean energy systems and benefits. To allow for meaningful engagement in and ownership of clean energy, community members first need to understand how the energy system operates and the potential benefits of local ownership. Some community-owned community solar projects, like the Dividends Returns Commons Model, focus first on engaging with and educating community members so they can understand the energy systems they seek to change. The Dividends Returns Commons Model also uses plain language and cartoon graphics to ensure that their bylaws and other membership information is clear and easy for all members to engage with.
  • Decision-making and leadership opportunities for members. Many community-owned community solar projects encourage members or community project teams to participate in key decisions related to the project or cooperative organization. In projects like the Faribault Community Solar Project and the Community Power Project, participants may be invited to vote on key governance issues, elect board members, or run for board positions themselves. This structure allows members to have a direct governance stake in the benefits being delivered to them by their community solar project.

Equitable Workforce Development

The future of community solar relies on a strong, equitable workforce to support the industry’s exponential growth and ambitious goals. To sustain the momentum of renewable energy development and meet the Biden Administration’s goal of decarbonizing the grid by 2035, the industry will need to greatly expand its workforce.

As new programs and initiatives are developed to meet this goal, equitable access to and representation in the solar workforce must be a priority. Equitable workforce development programs can recruit, train, and retain a diverse and local workforce to address pressing industry needs around the comprehensive skills and competencies most in demand.

Community solar projects and programs invested in building equitable workforce opportunities have found success in:

  • Providing worker-centric, responsive training and apprenticeship opportunities for a diverse set of participants. Because community solar connects community members directly with the benefits of clean energy, it can also be a successful vehicle for connecting community members with training and registered apprenticeship opportunities that lead to quality jobs. Successful training programs are responsive to the needs of the participants and the needs of the solar industry. Developing multiple types or levels of training programs can help attract and engage participants with diverse experiences, motivations, and availability by matching content and length with different levels of interest. Solar Landscape, which led the development of the 1 Catherine Street Community Solar Project, provides trainings that are anywhere from 2 days to 10 days and Nexamp, which developed the Urbana Solar Community Solar Project, holds trainings for non-construction solar jobs like program administration and reporting or community outreach. Training program developers may also consider providing introductory courses at high schools, or train-the-trainer models for high school or vocational school teachers to build early awareness of clean energy jobs.
  • Developing custom training programs that dovetail with national certification programs like NABCEP or OSHA. While training programs should be responsive to local needs, custom training materials should also lead to or dovetail with nationally recognized certification programs like NABCEP or OSHA to allow graduates of the program to validate their skillset when seeking positions with other organizations or in other regions. An ability to easily move between organizations and regions supports a long-term career in the community solar industry. SolarOne, a partner on the Community Power Community Solar Project, provides local NY certifications like the New York City Department of Buildings Site Safety Training, but also provides OSHA30 certification to program participants.
  • Include workforce development and training requirements in state or local program rules. State or local community solar programs can include training and other workforce development requirements in their project solicitations. Programs like the Illinois Solar for All program require that a certain percentage of project labor is performed by qualified trainees. These types of program requirements or incentives encourage developers to build training programs and can help ensure hiring opportunities are given to local community members.
  • Pay and provide wraparound services to trainees. Training programs that provide compensation to trainees can help participants remain committed to a program or support participants that may be using the training to transition to a new career pathway. SolarOne provided paid job training to 15 residents of the Community Power Community Solar Project as a part of ConEd’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program. To have equitable access to both training programs and job opportunities, trainees may also need additional support services such as transportation and childcare. These services ensure that trainees are able to take full advantage of training programs and opportunities, regardless of their access to other resources. Solar Landscape’s 1 Catherine Street Community Solar Project, for example, procured a grant from LyftUp to provide transportation for its trainees to and from training sessions, to job interviews, and even to job sites until the participant received their first check.
  • Leverage partnerships to connect trainees with jobs. To drive equitable outcomes in the community solar workforce, training programs must result in actual job placements. Successful training programs are informed by and feed into a network of employers that help ensure program graduates have immediate, high-quality job opportunities. Training programs designed to support internal recruitment for organizations should include close coordination between the training team and the development team to ensure the appropriate skills are developed. If the sponsoring organization does not have enough positions available for all of their trainees, they can partner with other developers or industry associations to connect graduates with open opportunities, additional training, and mentorship programs.
  • Using unionized labor. One of the best ways to ensure high quality jobs with family-sustaining wages is to utilize union labor for project development. The Urbana Solar community solar project used a union electrical contractor and ensured over 3,700 hours of work were performed by local union trainees to support their careers in skilled labor. The JOE-4-SUN Ashland community solar project used entirely union labor, supporting the creation and retention of good-paying jobs with livable wages and benefits. Prevailing wage, which can be used as a minimum wage threshold even outside of union contracts, is a critical mechanism that supports all workers but particularly, women and minorities. Unionized workers often benefit from a variety of wraparound benefits including healthcare, childcare, and transportation support.

Community Engagement

Successful and equitable community solar developments often go above and beyond the promise of solar energy—they prioritize the interests and needs of the community they serve in the design of the project or program itself. Procedural equity requires that communities have an authentic opportunity to influence decision-making through inclusive and representative engagement in the process of developing a community solar project or program. Communities may be interested in a community solar project for a variety of reasons, including wanting to reduce pollution in their community, wanting more control over their energy sources, wanting to participate in the financial benefits of clean energy, and/or wanting more jobs or economic development through locally sited clean energy. Communities also face a variety of barriers to accessing solar energy: some households may not qualify for community solar programs that require credit checks, others may have a large number of households where English is not a primary language. Each community also holds its own priorities for clean energy adoption, including land use, ownership structures, and types of benefits.

Empowering communities with the right tools and resources to be active participants in the design of community solar projects plays an important role in the longevity and success of community solar developments and ensures a project maximizes the right benefits to all households.

Projects and programs that want to prioritize community voice and involvement in project or program design:

  • Engage with community members early in the design process. Authentic community engagement requires that community members are included up front in the process of shaping the design of a project or program. Community solar project developers or program administrators can bring a project idea to a community and allow community members and leaders to help shape the project to meet their specific needs. If community voices are brought into the design process only at the end of the process, community members may feel excluded or marginalized, which could impact community support of and engagement in the project. Developers or program administrator can also form a project advisory board and compensate participants for representing the interests of their community in project design sessions. Projects like the Hummingbird Community Solar project are direct products of needs and interests expressed by community members. The volunteers on this project, all community members themselves, conducted multiple surveys up front to determine community-wide levels of interest and priorities before starting project design.
  • Build authentic working relationships with community-based partners. Building authentic relationships with key partners in a community plays an important role in the longevity and success of a community solar project. Partnering with local, community-based organizations and businesses to engage community members early in the design process can help legitimize your programs’ investment in the community. Relationships with community-based partners should be mutually beneficial, which often includes providing compensation for community partners and other participants, and should prioritize accessible and transparent information and mechanisms for ensuring accountability to identified project or program outcomes. Some efforts, like the Community Solar Clearinghouse Solution Program conducted authentic community engagement at many levels, including with elected officials, municipal staff, citizen commissioners, and sustainability commissions from over 50 diverse municipalities in the greater Chicago region. 
  • Hold engagement events in community-centric locations. Churches, community centers, and parks often double as gathering places for community members to socialize and connect. Project developers can leverage spaces or meetings where community members are already gathered to seek input on project design. Project developers can provide opportunities for subscribers and other community members to gather to learn more and engage in conversation about community solar projects and potential benefits. The New Hampshire Solar Shares project, for example, gathers participants for regular meet-ups to provide receive free energy education, help participants grow their network, and include subscribers in activities to maintain and beautify the project site. 
  • Prioritize community education and clear communication. Early and clear communication and educational events can ensure community members are informed of the benefits of community solar and the impacts a development may have on their community and its members. All communication and education should be offered in the predominant languages spoken by members of the community and should be presented in plain terms, with visual aids when possible. Examples of inclusive outreach strategies and materials can be found in the Best Practices Guide for Inclusive Solar Energy Communications. For an even more innovative approach, project developers may consider partnering with local educational institutions to help craft and deliver information about community solar benefits. Heart Butte Community Solar supported a local science teacher’s work to develop renewable energy engineering challenges for her students. With this support, students received hands-on training and hours of additional renewables-focused learning in addition to community solar subscriptions for their families.

About NCSP

an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office, is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every U.S. household. Any organization or individual residing in or doing work in the United States can  become a member of NCSP and access its resources. Members have the opportunity to leverage peer networks, funding opportunities, and technical assistance resources to set goals and overcome barriers to expanding community solar access.

Additional Resources

To learn more about how to include meaningful benefits in community solar projects and programs, please:

When Will This Guide Be Updated?

This guide was developed based on the best practices identified through the 2022 Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar. The NCSP expects to update this guide with any additional best practices identified through the 2023 Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar in 2024.

Feedback or comments on this guide are welcome and may be submitted to at any time.