American-Made Challenges Sunny Awards

The Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar (The Sunny Awards) is a $100,000 prize competition that recognizes 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.

Community solar is any solar project or purchasing program in which the benefits of a solar project flow to multiple customers such as individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups, within a certain geographic area. Community solar projects and programs can vary significantly in their structure, implementation, and benefits they provide. The best practices of the projects and programs recognized by the Sunny Awards will provide a blueprint for community solar developers, state energy offices, utilities, and others to help achieve the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) target to power the equivalent of five million households with community solar by 2025, generating $1 billion in electricity bill savings.

Announced on July 27, 2022, by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), the Sunnys offer up to five $10,000 Sunny Awards Grand Prizes to the top teams and up to 50 additional $1,000 Sunny Finalist Awards to competitors that find effective ways to equitably deliver the specific, meaningful benefits of community solar identified by NCSP. The finalists were announced on November 9, 2022. The Grand Prize winners and Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition winners were announced on January 19, 2023, at the 2023 NCSP Annual Summit.

Overview

To apply, community solar projects and programs must be able to prove that they are providing meaningful benefits in at least one of the following primary Meaningful Benefit categories:

  • Greater Households Savings
  • Low- to moderate-income (LMI) Household Access
  • Resilience and Grid Benefits
  • Community Ownership
  • Equitable Workforce Development

Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition will be given to the top three competitors in each of the primary Meaningful Benefit categories above, as well as in two innovation categories:

  • Innovation Category: Community Engagement
  • Innovation Category: Impact

Teams will nominate either a community solar project (individual community solar installations) or program (state, district, territory, or utility-run initiatives that enable, incentivize, or otherwise support the development of multiple community solar projects within a specific jurisdiction) by submitting a narrative application and a set of appropriate, complete, and verifiable supporting evidence.

Interested participants can sign up and read the official rules on the HeroX platform.

Award Stages

Sunny Finalist Awards

Up to 50 competitors will be selected as Sunny Finalist Award winners by DOE reviewers and will receive a cash prize of $1,000. These competitors will advance in the prize challenge.

Sunny Grand Prize Awards

A panel of external reviewers, using a pre-determined and publicly available set of scoring guidance, will select winners for two types of Grand Prize awards:

Sunny Grand Prize Award Winners: 

  • All Finalists that meet eligibility requirements across 2 or more meaningful benefit award categories will compete for a Sunny Grand Prize Award for Equitable Community Solar.
  • Up to five projects or programs that demonstrate significant achievement in delivering meaningful benefits across multiple categories will be selected as Sunny Grand Prize Award winners and will be eligible to receive $10,000 in prize money.

Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition:

  • DOE will also present non-monetary awards to recognize up to three programs or projects in each of the meaningful benefits categories, including the two innovation categories.

Winners of both the Sunny Grand Prize Awards and Meaningful Benefit Special Recognition Awards will be publicly announced by DOE and will be invited to participate in a series of DOE-hosted webinars and events on community solar best practices. Winners’ best practices will also be used to develop a collection of case studies to encourage greater adoption of these practices.  

    Grand Prize Winners

    Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households
    Brooklyn, NY 

    Community Power delivers energy savings to 500 households, provided workforce training, and offered paid jobs to public housing residents.

    District of Columbia's Solar for All
    Washington, DC

    Solar for All is a program designed to reduce electricity bills for households in Washington, DC, through single-family and community solar projects.

    Faribault Community Solar
    Faribault, MN

    The Faribault Community Solar project is a cooperatively-owned community solar array serving mostly low-to-moderate income residents in southern Minnesota.

    JOE-4-SUN Ashland
    Ashland, MA

    JOE-4-SUN Ashland is a 6 MW community solar project that saves low-to-moderate income households over $400 per year on electricity costs and brings the benefits of clean, renewable energy to a superfund site.

    Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Battery Independent Power Producer
    Shungnak, AK

    This solar and battery project led by the Shungnak and Kobuk tribes in the Northwest Arctic Borough region in Alaska aims to stabilize the cost of electricity and allow the communities to take charge of their energy future.

    Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition Winners

    GREATER HOUSEHOLD SAVINGS

    Groundswell Inc.
    Washington, District of Columbia

    Illinois Power Agency
    Champaign, Illinois

    Sunwealth Power LLC
    Waltham, Massachusetts

    LMI HOUSEHOLD ACCESS

    Grid Alternatives
    Idyllwild, California

    Illinois Power Agency
    Champaign, Illinois

    Nautilus Solar Energy LLC
    Kingsville, Maryland

    COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP

    Olympia Community Solar
    Olympia, Washington

    Oregon Clean Power Cooperative
    Talent, Oregon

    People Power Solar Cooperative
    Oakland, California       

    RESILIENCE AND GRID BENEFITS

    Oregon Clean Power Cooperative
    Talent, Oregon

    EQUITABLE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

    Nexamp
    Urbana, Illinois

    Solar Landscape LLC
    Teterboro, New Jersey

    INNOVATION IN COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

    Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
    Chicago, Illinois

    Olympia Community Solar
    Olympia, Washington

    Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative
    Plymouth, New Hampshire

    INNOVATION IN IMPACT

    Bonneville Environmental Foundation
    Heart Butte, Montana

    Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
    Chicago, Illinois

    Finalists

    1 Catherine Street Community Solar
    Solar Landscape LLC, Teterboro, NJ

    Boston Properties - CityPoint - 500 Totten Pond
    Sunwealth Power LLC, Waltham, MA

    Citizens Imperial Solar
    Citizens Energy Corporation, Calipatria, CA

    Common Energy
    Common Energy, New York, NY

    Community Power
    Solar One, Brooklyn, NY

    Community Solar Clearinghouse Solution Program
    Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Chicago, IL

    Dividends Return Commons Model
    People Power Solar Cooperative, Oakland, CA

    Dunbar Solar Commons
    Solar Commons, Tucson, AZ

    Faribault Community Solar
    Cooperative Energy Futures, Faribault, MN

    Haven Community Solar Project
    Cooperative Energy Futures, Saint Cloud, MN

    Heart Butte Community Solar
    Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Heart Butte, MT

    Hummingbird Community Solar Project
    Olympia Community Solar, Olympia, WA

    National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima
    Sunwealth Power LLC, Franklin, NJ

    New Hampshire Solar Shares
    Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative, Plymouth, NH

    New York City Housing Authority Solar Portfolio
    Sunwealth Power LLC, New York, NY

    Oregon Shakespeare Festival Community Solar
    Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, Talent, OR

    Santa Rosa Community Solar Project
    GRID Alternatives, Idyllwild, CA

    SharePower Community Solar Project at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
    Groundswell Inc., Washington, District of Columbia, United States

    Shiloh Temple Community Solar
    Cooperative Energy Futures, Minneapolis, MN

    Shungnak-Kobuk Solar Battery Independent Power Producer
    Northwest Arctic Borough, Shungnak, AK

    Solar for All
    Department of Energy and Environment, Washington, DC

    Temple Emunah Community Shared Solar
    Resonant Energy, Lexington, MA

    Tuckahoe Housing Authority
    UGE International, Tuckahoe, NY

    Urbana Solar
    Nexamp, Urbana, IL

    Vieques Microgrid
    Community Through Colors, Vieques Municipality, PR

    White Marsh Community Solar Farm
    Nautilus Solar Energy LLC, Kingsville, MD

    Illinois Guaranteed Savings Program
    Clearway Community Solar, Illinois

    Illinois Solar for All
    Illinois Power Agency, Champaign, IL

    JOE-4-SUN Low-Income Community Shared Solar: Ashland Solar Project
    Citizens Energy Corporation, Ashland, MA

    JOE-4-SUN Low-Income Community Shared Solar: Falmouth Solar Project
    Citizens Energy Corporation, Falmouth, MA

    Longview Garage Canopy for City of White Plains
    DSD Renewables, White Plains, NY

    Timeline

    • The competition opened on July 27, 2022
    • Applications were due on October 7, 2022.
    • Finalists were announced on November 9, 2022.
    • Winners were announced on January 19, 2023.

    Learn More