The Faribault Community Solar project was selected as a Grand Prize winner for the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an initiative of the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP).
NCSP, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), supports a coalition of stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every U.S. household and enable communities to realize meaningful benefits, such as greater household savings, low- to moderate-income (LMI) household access, increased resilience, community ownership, and equitable workforce development. NCSP is working toward a 2025 target to enable community solar to power the equivalent of 5 million households and generate a cumulative $1 billion in energy bill savings.
The Sunny Awards were launched in 2022 to recognize community solar projects and programs that employ best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities. Meaningful benefits are key outcomes of community solar development identified by the NCSP. These community solar benefits bring positive impacts to the households, organizations, and the surrounding communities where the projects are developed and operate.
- Project Name: Faribault Community Solar
- Location: Faribault, MN
- Project Size: 1.3 MW
- Project Subscribers: 87% residential and 13% nonprofit and governmental entities
- Year Energized: 2020
- Lead Organization: Cooperative Energy Futures
- Partner Organizations: Community Power, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, North Country Cooperative Foundation
- Business Model: Cooperatively-owned
- State/Utility Programs Leveraged: Xcel Energy Solar Rewards Community program
- Bill savings: 24%
- LMI access: 49.7% of residential subscribers are LMI households
Meaningful Benefits Best Practices
The Faribault Community Solar project is a cooperatively-owned community solar project developed by Cooperative Energy Futures under the Xcel Energy Solar Rewards Community program. As a cooperative model, all subscribers to the project also become member-owners of Cooperative Energy Futures. These member-owners receive an annual share in the Cooperative’s profits through dividends and equity, and have voting rights in key Cooperative decisions. This community ownership model helps households build wealth and have decision-making authority in the clean energy future of their communities.
The Faribault Community Solar project itself provides bill savings to 77 subscribers, about half of which are low- to moderate-income households. Based on feedback from their early community engagement efforts, Cooperative Energy Futures does not require individual income verification for any subscribers, as verification paperwork requirements can create barriers to enrollment for households. The project also uses an innovative back-up subscriber model in which the anchor tenant is in an agreement with Cooperative Energy Futures to accept additional project capacity (up to 40% of maximum capacity) as a stop gap measure during vacancy or default among residents.
This approach provides assurance to lenders and tax equity investors without requiring individual income or credit qualifications. To construct this project, Cooperative Energy Futures contracted with a local, minority-owned, installer that is committed to fair wages and providing workforce training through an electrician apprenticeship program.