The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household and enable communities to realize other benefits, such as increased resilience and workforce development. Check out the resources below to help inform your community solar projects and programs. To suggest an additional resource, please contact us.
Community and Stakeholder Engagement
- Solar Community Engagement Strategies for Planners – American Planning Association
This is one in a series of briefing papers providing planners with guidance on promoting solar energy use in their communities to help meet local energy and sustainability goals. APA produced this paper through its participation in the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs), a U.S. Department of Energy funded initiative designed to help accelerate solar energy adoption on the local level by providing timely and actionable information to local governments.
- Community Solar Basics – Interstate Renewable Energy Council
Community solar programs, also known as shared solar programs, enable multiple customers to participate in and share the economic benefits of a solar energy system. Certain enabling policies and program design elements are critical to the success of any community solar program, particularly for state-led or community-led programs enabled by legislation and rules. The following table offers a brief overview of these critical elements, an accompanying checklist to help guide decision-makers and program designers as they develop programs, and useful relevant additional resources for reference
- Best Practices Guide for Inclusive Solar Energy Communications – U.S. Department of Energy
Effective, inclusive communication about solar energy and its benefits is crucial for solar to realize its full potential. Engaging communities directly, utilizing a variety of mediums, and telling stories that highlight customers that look like America are all communication strategies that can help expand solar adoption and solar careers in underrepresented communities. This best practices guide, developed based off of the winners of the 2022 Inclusive Solar Outreach Awards, offers examples of best practices that can help guide other communications professionals in their solar energy campaigns.
- Solar Power in Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments – U.S. Department of Energy
This guide can help stimulate ideas or provide a framework for a comprehensive solar plan for a community. Each section is divided into topic areas—typically within the jurisdiction of local governments—that are integral in creating and supporting local solar markets.
- Summary: Solar Energy Technologies Office Convenings for Community-Focused Organizations – U.S. Department of Energy
In September 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office hosted two virtual convenings of community-based and community-focused organizations (CBOs). At these convenings, 75 organizations shared their perspectives on barriers to deploying community solar and opportunities and needs for increasing equitable access to community solar within the communities they represent. This report summarizes the feedback received.
Data and Tools
- Community Solar Scenario Tool (CSST) – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This model was developed to help municipal utilities, solar developers, and state and local advocates perform a "first cut" analysis of different community or shared solar program options. The Community Solar Scenario Tool allows users to see how various inputs, such as system size, location, and project costs, impact the economics of a project and from both a potential customer's perspective as well as the sponsoring utility’s.
- Sharing the Sun Community Solar Project Data – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This database represents a list of community solar projects identified through various sources as of December 2022.
- Community Solar Business Case Tool – Elevate Energy
The Community Solar Business Case Tool provides a flexible financial model that projects the costs and benefits to the system developer and subscriber of a single community solar project. It has been developed using the panel purchase or panel lease price as a basis for project costs. A basic “breakeven” price for panel purchase or monthly panel lease value is given based on the price of electricity over the course of the project.
- Are You Philanthropy-Ready? How to Work with Foundations on Mission-Aligned Community Solar – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
This guide aims to help community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and mission-aligned community solar developers seeking philanthropic funding become 'philanthropy-ready'. The guide provides an overview of how foundations work, gives tips on what they seek in a fundable project, and provides guidance on crafting effective proposals.
- Low Income Community Solar: Utility Return Considerations for Electric Cooperatives – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The objective of this short report is to identify project structures that make low-income community solar projects more cost-effective, replicable, and scalable, for electric cooperative and municipal utilities. This report explores the tradeoffs between providing energy bill savings for low-income subscribers and utility project returns, as well as some of the key lessons learned from existing successful low-income community solar pilot projects.
- Modeling the Cost of LMI Community Solar Participation: Preliminary Results – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The goal of this report is to understand the magnitude of incentives needed to drive low- and-moderate-income (LMI) customer participation in community solar. To do so, the Community Solar Business Case Tool was used to assess the cost of community solar for LMI customers in 6 states under 3 scenarios with standard assumptions for cost and size, and state specific assumptions surrounding bill credits, incentives, and generation. The three scenarios explored include at 20% LMI participation with anchor subscriber*, 20% LMI with no anchor, and bill credit level needed for positive net present value.
- Sharing the Sun: Understanding Community Solar Deployment and Subscriptions – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This slide deck presents data and analysis from an initial round of data collection for a three-year project studying the U.S. community solar market. The data were collected through a research collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Minnesota, and the Smart Electric Power Alliance. Partners gathered data from public filings, websites, state government websites, and industry collaborators.
- State Policies to Increase Low-Income Communities’ Access to Solar Power – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This blog post discusses state policies to increase low-income communities' access to solar power.
- Virginia Solar Pathways Project: Economic Study of Utility Administered Solar Programs: Soft Costs, Community Solar, and Tax Normalization Considerations – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This report presents economic considerations for solar development in support of the Virginia Solar Pathways Project (VSPP). Three major topics are considered, selected due to their potential to reduce the installed costs of solar energy and the pivotal role electric utility companies play in each of the three. They include (1) the potential for soft cost reductions through utility-administered solar, (2) utility involvement in community solar development in the Southeast, and (3) the financial impacts of tax normalization policy on utility-led solar development.
- Issue Brief: Reducing Energy Burden for Low-income Residents in Multifamily Housing with Solar Energy – U.S. Department of Energy
This issue brief discusses some of the key considerations and related opportunities for deploying solar for low-income multifamily housing (buildings with 5 or more units). In particular, program administrators may need to consider how differences in multifamily housing financing structure and type can influence resident eligibility as well as resulting impacts on energy burden in both on-site and off-site solar installations. This issue brief will touch on these considerations and profile two multifamily housing examples that demonstrate how state and local entities have deployed solar energy (photovoltaics) on behalf of low-income residents.
- Community Solar Basics: Consumer Information – Solar United Neighbors
Community solar offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t—or prefer not to—install solar panels on their homes. In this webinar recording, you'll learn the basics of community solar. Learn how subscribing to a community solar project enables individuals and businesses to receive a credit on their electric bill each month for the solar energy produced by their share.This is the first in a three-part series of webinars about community solar.
- National Community Solar Partnership Fact Sheet – U.S. Department of Energy
This fact sheet outlines the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household by 2025. This U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) partnership, led by the Solar Energy Technologies Office and supported by the Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs Office, will convene multi-stakeholder teams around collective goals, provide technical assistance for specific local challenges, and develop an online community platform to support peer learning and exchange.
- Summary: Solar Energy Technologies Office Equitable Community Solar Request for Information – U.S. Department of Energy
In May 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) released a Request for Information on strategies for equitable community solar development to gather input on barriers to rapid community solar deployment and other community-serving models to increase solar access. This report summarizes responses received from community solar stakeholders on barriers and proposed solutions to equitable community solar deployment.
- To 5 Million and Beyond: Community Solar's Pathway to Success (NCSP Annual Summit) – U.S. Department of Energy
The National Community Solar Partnership's second Annual Summit in January 2022 included discussions with DOE leadership, state governors, and a number of leaders in equitable community solar development on how to reach the target of powering the equivalent of 5 million households with community solar by 2025.
- Sharing the Sun: Community Solar – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This report highlights the growth in the community solar market and changes in subscriber value and state policies. As of 2021, there are more than 3.2 GW of community solar across across 1,600 projects in the United States. Cumulative community solar capacity has grown by about 121% year over year since 2010; in other words, capacity has more than doubled on average year over year.
- Presentation: Sharing the Sun: Community Solar Deployment, Subscription Savings, and Energy Burden Reduction – National Community Solar Partnership
This slide deck presentation highlights the findings of the Sharing the Sun: Community Solar report developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Community Solar Partnership.
- Webinar: 3 GW and Growing: Trends in the Community Solar Market – National Community Solar Partnership
This is a recording of a webinar about the findings of the Sharing the Sun: Community Solar report.
- What the Community Solar Customer Wants – Smart Electric Power Alliance
As part of a community solar project funded by the Solar Market Pathways grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, SEPA and Shelton Group polled American consumers and businesses to identify the audiences for find out what they want most from a community solar program. We’ll take a look at the consumer side first.
Multifamily Affordable Housing
- Webinar: Community Solar Resources for Multifamily Affordable Housing Providers – U.S. Department of Energy
As part of an initiative to support Multifamily Affordable Housing (MFAH) providers in their efforts to accelerate deployment of community solar, the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) convened a group of MFAH providers from across the United States to understand and address barriers. Project partners including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Urban Ingenuity, and Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) facilitated peer exchange, provided technical assistance, and developed resources to support the sector more broadly. This webinar explored these resources. Download the webinar slidedeck.
- Community Solar and Low-Income Utility Allowances – U.S. Department of Energy
New guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enables residents of HUD-assisted housing to access cost-saving community solar subscriptions without inducing a rent increase or utility allowance adjustment.
- Solar Financing Model: National Housing Trust – U.S. Department of Energy
The National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation is an affiliate of the National Housing Trust, a non-profit engaged in preserving affordable housing. In order to combat the impact of volatile energy prices and harness more environmentally-friendly energy sources, NHT/Enterprise Preservation Corporation installed solar systems on its multifamily affordable housing properties and is working with other multifamily housing owners to do the same. The initiative established to own and operate the systems is called NHT Renewable. The first major NHT Renewable project was completed in Fall 2014—the installation of 14 solar systems across 13 buildings in Washington, D.C.
Policy and Regulatory
- Consumer Protection for Community Solar: A Guide for States – Clean Energy States Alliance
Community solar is a rapidly expanding model for increasing solar access and solar deployment in the U.S. It can enable broader participation in the solar economy by allowing renters, as well as homeowners whose roofs are unsuitable for solar, to benefit from solar power. The economies of scale and relative simplicity of construction of community solar projects can help to accelerate the widespread adoption of solar and provide economic, environmental, and energy security benefits to individual participants and the larger community. Because participation in community solar projects can be a complex and complicated undertaking for residential customers, this paper explores consumer protection issues that may arise, as well as considers the role states can take to ensure appropriate consumer protection measures are provided to the community solar customer.
- Community Shared Solar: Policy and Regulatory Considerations – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Community shared solar is an increasingly popular business model for deploying distributed solar technology. These projects allow customers that do not have sufficient solar resource, that rent their homes, or that are otherwise unable or unwilling to install solar on their residences, to buy or lease a portion of a shared solar system. This paper explores the ways in which the shared solar business model interacts with existing policy and regulations, including net metering, tax credits, and securities regulation. It presents some of the barriers that shared solar projects may face, and provides options for creating a supportive policy environment.
- Focusing the Sun: State Considerations for Designing Community Solar Policy – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
To build on the recent momentum around community solar and to facilitate widespread adoption, the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) was launched in 2015, led by the U.S. Department of Energy. This report summarizes outcomes from the NCSP State Best Practices working group by identifying key differences in state policies that enable community solar and illustrating how various policy design approaches may impact the market. The critical elements focused on include program cap, project size cap, subscriber location requirements, subscriber eligibility requirements, LMI stipulations, and subscriber compensation.
- States with Community Solar Policy Updates and Capacity Growth – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This presentation deck provides an overview of emerging community solar markets. The presentation covers specific states with emerging community solar markets who have new programs or policies without many currently interconnected projects, as well as states that have recently updated their community solar policies or programs.
- Summary: Solar Energy Technologies Office State Convenings – U.S. Department of Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office published a summary of lessons learned during a series of NCSP virtual convenings in 2021 that brought together state representatives to explore barriers and opportunities for accelerating community solar deployment. The report includes a summary of key challenges, opportunities, and potential needs and resources that states identified to support equitable community solar development. The findings from these convenings are guiding current NCSP support to state governments.
- Memo: Community Solar and LIHEAP Considerations – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
This memo, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in June 2023, confirms that LIHEAP funds can be used for solar energy use through new and existing electric payment mechanisms, such as community solar subscription fees, and provides LIHEAP grant recipients (states) with recommendations to consider when utilizing LIHEAP funds for community solar subscriptions.
- Municipal Utility Community Solar Workbook – American Public Power Association
From identifying community interest to selecting an appropriate site, determining budgeting and pricing models, working with vendors, and enrolling customers in the program, this guidebook walks utilities through the processes, materials, and considerations for exploring community solar projects from a public power perspective. This workbook was developed as a part of the NCSP Municipal Utility Collaborative and included representatives from 7 municipal utilities, the Department of Energy, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
- Twelve Community-Solar Pricing Strategies From Utilities in the U.S. – Community Solar Value Project
This illustrative round-up of strategies from utilities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas has case studies written from the utility perspective, even though in several cases, state policies have dictated a relatively narrow role for the utility. CSVP embarked on this effort in order to show the range of program and pricing options currently in the marketplace.
- Community Solar 101 – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
This presentation deck provides an overview of community solar for a new user. The presentation covers community solar structures, considerations for low- and moderate-income (LMI) customers, policies related to community solar design, and a community solar market overview.
- Design and Implementation of Community Solar Programs for Low and Moderate Income Customers – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Community solar has emerged as a potential model to increase low- and moderate-income (LMI) solar access and reduce LMI energy burden. To facilitate LMI participation and customer retention, projects design must consider alternative financing options, subscription models, and customer outreach strategies. This report draws from the literature and from interviews with representatives from LMI solar developers and state LMI community solar programs to provide experience on LMI community solar design.
- Equitable Access to Community Solar: Program Design and Subscription Considerations – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Since 2008, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia have developed community solar-related programs intended to benefit all economic situations including Low-and-Moderate Income (LMI) customers (Stanton 2020). To investigate community solar program designs and subscription considerations for all customers, this fact sheet provides a summary of existing state-level programs that are targeted to serve historically excluded households , as well as estimated their capacity and subscribers in the United States.
- Project Summary: Community Solar Stakeholder Impacts in Cook County, Illinois – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a grant to the Cook County Department of Environmental Control (Illinois) and its project team to establish replicable business models for community solar and eliminate barriers to implementation in the county. The team was tasked with defining the value proposition of community solar to stakeholders in Cook County. To do this, they conducted multiple workshops to gain feedback from local and national stakeholders. This document summarizes the process used to evaluate stakeholder impacts of community solar in Cook County.
- Up to the Challenge: Communities Deploy Solar in Underserved Markets – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Solar in Your Community Prize Challenge (SIYC Prize Challenge) in 2016 to identify innovative approaches to support solar deployment among underserved markets, including low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations, nonprofit organizations, and other community-serving entities, such as municipal governments. DOE designed the SIYC Prize Challenge to help local teams develop novel approaches to resolve them. This report describes the SIYC Prize Challenge structure, participating teams, their top technical challenges, and profiles 10 innovative teams and related business models.
- Community Solar Basics: Programs and Policy – Solar United Neighbors
In this webinar recording, you'll learn the basics of community solar policy and programs. Subscribing to a community solar project enables individuals and businesses to receive a credit on their electric bill each month for the solar energy produced by their share. Join us in taking a closer look at how community solar programs happen.
- Project Development: Grow Your Own – Solar United Neighbors
In this webinar recording, you'll learn how to be part of a new community solar project in your community. Subscribing to a community solar project enables individuals and businesses to receive a credit on their electric bill each month for the solar energy produced by their share. Join us in taking a closer look at community solar project development.
- A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
By exploring the range of incentives and policies while providing examples of operational community shared solar projects, this guide will help communities plan and implement successful energy projects. In addition, by highlighting some policy best practices, this guide suggests changes in the regulatory landscape that could significantly boost community shared solar installations across the nation. The information in this guide is organized around three sponsorship models: utility projects, special purpose entity projects, and nonprofit projects.
- Request for Proposal Template for Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic Systems for State, City, and Other Entities – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Template available for local governments seeking to develop solar energy resources on their facilities (buildings and land) through utility-interactive PV systems. It contains information on project description, requirements, and submissions. Users may use and/or modify the template to suit their needs and projects.
- Rooftop Solar Technical Potential for Low-to-Moderate Income Households in the United States – National Renewable Energy Laboratory
NREL research investigating the technical potential of rooftop solar in the United States, aiming to improve the understanding in the residential sector, particularly for low-to-moderate income households. Includes a section entitled, "Technical Potential for Select Buildings that Serve LMI Households," including federally assisted rental housing.
- Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources (ACCESS) – National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
This is the home page of NRECA's Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources (ACCESS) project, an effort to explore ways to help make solar options available to members in need, funded by the U.S Department of Energy, through the Solar Energy Technology Office.
- Community Shared Solar in Real Life – Smart Electric Power Alliance
Dominion Virginia Power engaged the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) to conduct a study on existing community solar programs in order to discover insights into 1) existing utility program designs and performances, and 2) the experiences of customers in existing community solar programs. This work is intended to inform Dominion’s development of a community solar program, helping to ensure that Dominion’s proposed program benefits from the lessons learned by others. The report was supported by a United States Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Market Pathways (SMP) grant (award No. DEEE0006914) awarded to Dominion via DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. Dominion’s SMP+H56 project aims to develop a collaborative, utility-administered solar strategy for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The goals of the Dominions SMP grant are (i) to integrate existing solar programs with new options appropriate for Virginia’s policy environment and broader economic development objectives; (ii) to promote wider deployment of solar within a low retail electric rate environment; and (iii) to serve as a replicable model for use by other states with similar policy environments including, but not limited to, the entire Southeast region. SEPA’s community solar research effort lays the groundwork for a community solar program that will support all of these goals.