Image of the solar panels at the Sharing Power at a Local DC Carmelite Monastery project

The SharePower Community Solar Project at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel project was selected as a Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition winner for Greater Bill Savings for the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an initiative of the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP).

The 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 Overview

  • Project Name: SharePower Community Solar Project at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
  • Location: Washington, District of Columbia
  • Project Size: 151 kW
  • Project Subscribers: 100% residential subscribers
  • Year Energized: 2020
  • Lead Organization: Groundswell
  • Partner Organizations: Ipsun Solar
  • Business Model: Non-profit developed system, financed and owned by Sunlight General Capital and NYCEEC
  • State or Utility Program Leveraged: N/A
  • Bill savings: 50% bill savings for LMI subscribers
  • LMI access: 25% of the subscribers are LMI

Meaningful Benefits Best Practices

Built on the grounds of the Monastery of Our Lady Mt. Carmel in northeast Washington DC, the SharePower Community Solar Project at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel provides bill savings to about 50 residential households, including 12 low- to moderate-income (LMI) households. These households each receive a 3kW subscription to the community solar project at no cost, which saves them about $500 per year, effectively cutting their electricity bills in half. The resulting aggregate savings for LMI households total approximately $120,000 over the 20-year life of the project.

Groundswell is the developer and subscriber management organization for this project. The project delivers free subscriptions to LMI households through the Groundswell SharePower model that allows market rate subscribers to purchase energy from a community solar project and donate their solar savings to the project’s income-qualified subscribers. As a result, 25% of the project’s capacity is available to income-qualified subscribers who get their solar for free. Subscription sizes are designed to cut household electricity bills in half. The SharePower Community Solar Project at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel further ensured LMI access by eliminating all financial barriers to LMI household enrollment.

Groundswell worked with their lending partner, Sunlight General Capital, to finance the project using Groundswell’s equitable project finance model, which approaches community solar projects as a small utility, financed based on its potential earnings, rather than a large rooftop, financed based on the risk of the participating individuals. By leveraging the SharePower finance model, Groundswell was able to eliminate the need for consumer credit scores for enrollment, provide shorter contract terms at either one or two years, eliminate up-front payments, and eliminate fees or penalties for cancelling subscriptions if a family moves.

For more information on the SharePower Community Solar Project at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, visit the Groundswell website or contact Rashad Williams at rashad.williams@groundswell.org.

Learn more about the 2022 Sunny Awards and the winners.