Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced five winners of the Solar in Your Community Challenge. Led by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, this $5 million competition incentivized new approaches to increase the affordability of electricity resulting in expanded solar adoption across America.

Launched in November 2016, the competition encouraged teams to demonstrate innovative business and financial models to expand solar access for nonprofits, faith-based organizations, state and local governments, and low- and moderate-income communities, all of which face unique barriers to adopting solar. Winners were selected based on each team’s ability to develop replicable, innovative, and sustainable models for profitably expanding the use of solar power.

“Solar electricity costs are falling, but many of the individuals and organizations that can benefit the most from solar are still not being included,” said Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel R. Simmons. “The U.S. Department of Energy is committed to improving the affordability of all forms of electricity for everyone. Competitions like the Solar in Your Community Challenge incentivize creativity and a sustainable path going forward by proving that these models can be financially successful,” he said.

In total, the winning teams proposed 25.7 megawatts of solar energy projects across the country by 2020, benefitting more than 1,200 households and 18 nonprofit organizations. On average, winners were able to save customers between 15% and 25% of their electricity bills. Winners include:​

  • Best Low- and Moderate-Income Project
    • Grand Prize ($500,000 prize): The CARE Project from Denver, Colorado was led by the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver. Partners included GRID Alternatives, Ensight Energy, Xcel Energy, and SolarTAC.
    • Runner-Up ($200,000 prize): The Community Solar for Community Action team from Backus, Minnesota was led by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance. Partners included the American Indian Community Housing Organization, Leech Lake Energy Assistance Program, and Southeast Vermont Community Action.
  • Best Low- and Moderate-Income Program ($100,000 prize): The Kerrville Area Solar Partners team was led by the Kerrville Public Utility Board of Texas. Partners included Schneider Engineering, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, RES Americas, and NextEra Energy.
  • Best Nonprofit Project ($100,000 prize): The Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon team from Portland, Oregon was led by Sustainable Northwest. Partners included the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative and a coalition of rural communities in Hood River, Lake, and Douglas Counties.  
  • Best Nonprofit Program ($100,000 prize): The Fellowship Energy team from Burlingame, California was led by Fellowship Energy. Partners included Performance Solar, Episcopal Church Building Fund, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and Trinity Episcopal School.

In addition, 12 teams were selected for recognition of their innovations in program design and ability to reach new markets. Learn more about the winners.

More than 170 teams from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico participated in the challenge. According to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, Up to the Challenge: Communities Deploy Solar in Underserved Markets, if all teams successfully execute their business plans, the program would create 1,600 megawatts of new solar by 2020 and serve as many as 900 nonprofits and nearly 50,000 households.

The program was administered by International City/County Management Association, which advances professional local government worldwide through leadership, management, innovation, and ethics.

Learn more about DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy