illustration of homes and buildings that have solar panels on them

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) designed this guide to assist local government officials and stakeholders in boosting solar deployment. The content is based on the Solar Power in Your Community guidebook, updated in 2022, which contains case studies with approaches to reduce market barriers that have been field tested in cities and counties around the country. Many examples are the direct result of SolSmart, a national designation program that recognized municipalities, counties, and regional organizations that are addressing market barriers and making it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar.

Solar Power in Your Community serves as a guidebook to assist local government officials and stakeholders in increasing local access to and deployment of solar photovoltaics (PV). This 2022 edition highlights new technologies and strategies to maximize the benefits of solar to all communities. It also emphasizes strategies for improving the equity of solar deployment at the local level. Similar to previous iterations of the guidebook, the 2022 edition offers an in-depth introduction of each topic, case studies of real-world applications, and supplemental resources, including reports, references, tools, and a state and federal policy guide.

In addition to the information below, you can learn more about the guidebook by watching a webinar recording.

 

How can I help my community develop a solar deployment plan?

The first step to increasing solar deployment is organizing and developing a strategic approach to increasing the deployment of and accessibility to solar. Local governments should work to understand local priorities that inform solar target setting, identify contextual issues such as local land use and historical inequities, and develop resources to educate the public about solar. To increase solar deployment effectively and equitably, it is critical to engage a diversity of local stakeholders—including members of underserved communities—in decision-making using appropriate strategies for gathering public input.

A good starting point is to create an advisory committee or task force that includes a diversity of stakeholders in decision-making. An advisory group and other forms of stakeholder engagement can help local governments gain the perspectives of and obtain buy-in from local solar energy market participants. Including key community members and organizations on solar advisory committees and task forces, can increase the effectiveness, equity, and inclusiveness of the local solar effort.

Resources

Who should be involved in developing a solar deployment plan?

In addition to a solar advisory committee and/or task force (see previous question), other relevant organizations that could be involved in developing a solar development plan include:

  • State Energy Offices
  • Utilities
  • Community-Based Organizations
  • Tribal Communities
  • Higher Education Institutions
  • Labor Unions

Resources

  • Community Outreach and Solar Equity: A Guide for States on Collaborating With Community-Based Organizations – This guide from the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) is aimed at state energy agencies that are looking to strengthen relationships with local under-resourced communities or that are beginning to engage in energy justice work. The guide is a collection of best practices, ideas, and principles that provide states with a foundation for building equitable relationships with CBOs and working with them on solar development.
  • Working Effectively With Tribal Governments – This guide from the state government of Michigan provides information about tribal communities, including an introduction to concepts, federal law, and tips for working more effectively with tribal governments.

What should my community consider when setting local solar targets?

Setting solar installation targets helps clarify the role solar energy will play in achieving a community’s broader environmental, climate change, or sustainability goals. Setting targets helps create momentum for a solar program, with stakeholders working toward common goals. It also guides the strategy for increasing solar installations in a community and enables leaders to track progress against a published goal.

Solar target setting should begin with the development of an installation baseline that provides insight into a community’s experience with solar energy. After an installation baseline has been developed, it can be used to establish realistic local solar targets. To identify realistic targets, a community may consider the following:

  • Identifying programs and policies that support or hinder solar deployment at the state, local, and utility levels.
  • Identifying potential space available in the community for rooftop and ground-mounted solar installations.
  • Understanding the local solar market, including the price and availability of solar technologies, tax incentives, subsidies, and the operations of local solar developers and installers.
  • Considering current grid electricity costs and the amount of electricity used by different sectors (residential, commercial, industrial).
  • Understanding community priorities for solar deployment, such as reducing carbon emissions, lowering electricity bills, and improving public health.

To see the complete list of considerations, see Section 1.5 of the complete Solar Power in Your Community guidebook.

Tools to Assist in Solar Target Setting

Tool Host Description Benefits for Target Setting
DeepSolar Stanford Analyzes satellite imagery to identify locations and sizes of U.S. PV panels Helps determine the number of local solar installations
Low-Income Energy Affordability Data(LEAD) DOE Helps states, communities, and other stakeholders improve their understanding of low-income housing and energy characteristics Clarifies low-income housing and energy characteristics
National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) NREL Provides hourly and half-hourly values of global horizontal, direct normal, and diffuse horizontal irradiance, plus meteorological data Estimates the amount of solar energy historically available anywhere in the United States
Project Sunroof Google Displays solar potential across geographic areas and provides solar savings potential for specific locations  Estimates solar potential for communities
REopt NREL The REopt™ techno-economic decision support platform is used by NREL researchers to optimize energy systems for buildings, campuses, communities, microgrids, and more. REopt recommends the optimal mix of renewable energy, conventional generation, and energy storage technologies to meet cost savings, resilience, and energy performance goals. This tool can be utilized by local governments to create optimized systems for local government buildings, ensuring they are meeting energy performance and/or resilience goals.
Solar Demographics Tool  LBNL Allows users to visualize and download data from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) report, Income Trends Among U.S. Residential Rooftop Solar Adopters Provides information on solar adoption based on income level 
State and Local Planning for Energy(SLOPE) NREL Delivers jurisdictionally resolved potential and projection data on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation Provides county-level technical generation potential for PV and levelized cost of energy data for multiple generation technologies
Tracking the Sun Visualization  LBNL Allows users to access data about distributed solar, including installed system prices, customer segmentation, mounting configuration, and more Helps establish a local baseline and clarify the status of solar in an area


Resources

What actions can my community take to ensure equity in the local solar market?

Despite substantial market growth, barriers to solar adoption disproportionally impact low- to moderate-income (LMI) households and under-resourced communities. The access of LMI households to PV is hindered by several factors, including the inability to afford the upfront cost of PV systems, lack of home ownership, and inadequate income or credit to qualify for solar financing. Households and businesses alike may face additional barriers, such as complicated procedures for permitting and connecting systems to the grid, financing challenges, and a lack of awareness of solar energy solutions. Local governments are uniquely positioned to remove many of the barriers to widespread solar adoption and make solar energy more affordable and accessible for their residents and businesses.

There are many ways that local jurisdictions can help create a more equitable local solar market. To work toward equitable local solar adoption, especially in underserved communities, a community may consider setting racial equity goals, creating a specific LMI solar program or LMI carve outs in existing programs, accounting for historical injustices, ensuring diversity and representation on local advisory committees, working with local minority-owned businesses, deploying solar for multifamily buildings, and including underrepresented minorities in decision-making about solar.

Resources

What kinds of technical assistance or other resources are available to help my community implement a local solar plan?

In addition to utilizing the many publications available, local governments should consider taking advantage of the various forms of support available when organizing their solar efforts. Technical assistance is one example; it can take the form of information, skills training, technical data, or consulting services, and it can be obtained during any stage of local solar development. There may also be localized funding opportunities, such as grants to address barriers to solar installations for LMI households, grants to local governments that demonstrate leadership in clean energy, funding for training programs, and more. Local governments may also consider hiring an intern or fellow for added support in pursing local solar development. See the full Solar Power in Your Community guidebook for comprehensive lists of resources for your community.

Opportunities for Technical Assistance as of 2021

Technical Assistance Description
SolSmart Technical Assistance All cities, counties, and regional organizations are eligible for no-cost technical assistance to meet SolSmart criteria and achieve solar goals.
Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP) DOE national laboratories provide technical assistance to remote, island, and islanded communities to help increase local energy resilience.
Directory of State Low- and Moderate- Income Clean Energy Programs CESA maintains a directory of state clean energy programs, including technical assistance programs, for LMI residents and communities. 
DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs (OIE) OIE provides federally recognized tribes, tribal energy development organizations, and other organized tribal groups and communities with technical assistance to advance tribal energy projects. 
National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) NCSP is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to have community solar projects provide 26GW of power and create US$1 billion in bill savings by 2025.
Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN)

NREL provides technical assistance to diverse teams of stakeholders to develop and test solutions to real-world challenges associated with solar energy adoption. 

Communities LEAP The DOE Communities LEAP program (Communities: Local Energy Action Program) is a new competitive technical assistance program specifically designed to support low-income, energy-burdened communities across the United States that are also experiencing either direct environmental justice impacts, or direct economic impacts from a shift away from historical reliance on fossil fuels.

 

Can solar play a role in my community’s resilience, sustainability, and climate planning?

Yes. Solar deployment has increased rapidly in the last 10 years, allowing more communities to access the benefits of solar PV. This increase has allowed solar to play an important role in local plans such as resilience planning, sustainability planning, and climate action planning. Some municipalities and states are already targeting 100% renewable energy or 100% carbon neutrality by a certain date, often with interim goals along the way. Solar can be incorporated into these plans by setting specific solar carve-outs within existing targets, incentivizing high energy consumers to use roof and parking-lot space for on-site solar through local tax incentives, or powering municipal operations with solar.

Solar can also play a role in energy-sector resilience, which may already be included in local planning. Resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions, and to withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptive events. Solar can provide a foundation for grid islands by providing local power when the main grid is disrupted. Pairing PV with energy storage enables solar energy generated during the day to be used when the sun is not shining, providing power more continually during a grid disruption and thus increasing the resilience of the local energy system.

Resources

What kinds of programs can my community implement to make solar available to more households, businesses, and nonprofits?

After setting solar targets, local decision makers need to identify ways to reach those targets. Local governments may consider solar products such as on-site solar, off-site solar, or purchasing mechanisms such as virtual power purchase agreements (PPAs), community choice aggregation (CCA), renewable energy certificates (RECs), or third-party ownership models.

While solar products and purchasing mechanisms are important tools in making solar more accessible, reducing PV costs is also another important factor. Although solar costs have declined substantially over the past decade, cost can still be a barrier to adoption. PV non-hardware, or “soft,” costs now constitute more than half of residential and commercial PV system costs. For more information on cost trends see Solar Technology Cost Analysis | Solar Market Research and Analysis | NREL.

Many cities and counties have implemented incentives and financing programs for residents and local businesses to help make solar affordable. Solarize campaigns, for example, reduce the upfront cost of solar by giving groups of individuals or businesses a discounted rate for bulk purchases. Localities may also consider offering a property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing program or utilizing a Green Bank to help secure low-cost capital for clean energy projects at favorable rates and terms. There are additional mechanisms that can be implemented to help overcome solar adoption barriers specific to LMI households.

Resources

How can we enable community solar projects?

For local government-owned land, community solar may be an ideal option. Community solar is a distributed solar energy deployment model that allows customers to buy or lease part of a larger, off-site shared PV system. Community solar subscribers then typically receive a monthly bill credit for electricity generated by their share of the solar PV system. Subscriptions are often based on the customer’s monthly load or a fixed kilowatt hour/month.

Community solar projects can be sited in a variety of spaces, such as LMI neighborhoods, public lands, or on a former industrial or commercial site that may be contaminated known as a brownfield. Communities can host a community solar project or incorporate community solar into their carbon-reduction and renewable energy goals.

Municipal utilities may offer community solar to residents and businesses without access to traditional rooftop PV via municipal utility ownership, community-developed limited liability companies (LLCs) or special purpose entities, or developer ownership. For more information about community solar for municipalities, as well as ownership and financing mechanisms, see SolSmart’s Community Solar Toolkit for Local Governments, the NREL report Lessons Learned: Community Solar for Municipal Utilities, and the NCSP’s Municipal Utility Collaborative.

Resources

  • Design and Implementation of Community Solar Programs for Low- and Moderate-Income Customers – This NREL report draws from the literature and from interviews with representatives from LMI solar developers and state LMI community solar programs to provide guidance on LMI community solar design.
  • Financing Community-Scale Solar – In this report, RMI’s community-scale solar program, Shine, and sustainable finance practice area illustrate how established solar financing models can easily be adapted to the community-scale solar market.
  • IREC Community Solar Basics – This reference guide from IREC gives a brief overview of seven critical program design elements along with accompanying checklists and additional resources to help guide decision makers and stakeholders as they develop community solar programs.
  • IREC Guiding Principles for Shared Solar Energy Programs – These guiding principles from IREC reflect the benefits of shared renewable energy programs to participants, the renewable energy industry, utilities, and all energy consumers.
  • Lessons Learned: Community Solar for Municipal Utilities – This summary from NREL discusses specific case studies of municipalities implementing community solar projects, the range of approaches they are taking, and challenges other municipal utilities face in deciding to pursue community solar.
  • NREL’s Community Solar web page – This web page from NREL provides information and resources on community solar, including its current market status, common barriers, overall benefits, design best practices, and pertinent publications.
  • RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative: Community Solar – This EPA report discusses siting community solar on superfund sites, brownfields, landfills, and mine sites, as well as other formerly contaminated sites, under various federal and state cleanup programs.
  • Shared Renewable Energy for Low- to Moderate-Income Consumers: Policy Guidelines and Model Provisions – This document from IREC provides information and tools for policymakers, regulators, utilities, shared renewable energy developers, program administrators, and others to support the adoption and implementation of shared renewables programs designed to provide tangible benefits to LMI individuals and households.
  • SolSmart Issue Brief: Expanding Solar Participation Through Community Solar – This SolSmart Issue Brief describes the community solar model and highlights approaches for developing new projects. It discusses why community solar can be beneficial, the ingredients of successful programs, and case studies of successful community solar programs across the country.
  • SolSmart’s Community Solar Toolkit for Local Governments – SolSmart’s Community Solar web page provides an overview of community solar, VNEM, community solar ownership models, and implementation tips for local governments.
  • The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) – NCSP is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to have community solar projects provide 26GW of power and create US$1 billion in bill savings by 2025. Technical assistance is available to members. NCSP also includes partner collaboratives that work together to identify and address common barriers, as well as educational materials. See also the Municipal Utility Collaborative offered through NCSP.
  • Utility Community Solar Handbook – This handbook from the Solar Electric Power Association provides the utility’s perspective on utility-managed community solar program development. The handbook serves as a resource for government officials, regulators, community organizers, solar energy advocates, nonprofits, and interested citizens who want to support or educate their local utility in implementing a new community solar project or improving an existing one.

How can updating local policies in my community help reduce installation costs and improve the market environment for solar?

The legal and regulatory framework forms the foundation for building a sustainable solar market. Effective and streamlined local rules and regulations help reduce installation costs and can significantly increase adoption rates for solar energy. In fact, some of the most critical barriers to widespread adoption of solar energy can be removed only by local governments. By incorporating solar energy considerations into zoning codes and ordinances, local governments can bring clarity to the responsibilities of various parties, achieve balance between stated government priorities, and avoid costly and time-consuming legal action.

For example, significant variability exists in PV permitting and inspection processes among U.S. communities, which can increase PV non-hardware, or “soft,” costs; delay installations; and cause customer cancellations, thus hindering deployment. Streamlining PV permitting and inspections locally can allow more residents and businesses to receive solar at a faster pace.

Resources

  • Are You Solar Ready? – This article from the American Planning Association discusses seven steps communities can take to prepare for large-scale solar development.
  • Best Practices in Zoning for Solar – This blog post from NREL discusses best practices for zoning for solar and provides additional resources.
  • Model Zoning for the Regulation of Solar Energy Systems – This document from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources provides model zoning language and guidance to local governments to establish standards that facilitate solar energy development.
  • NYSERDA Solar Guidebook – This guidebook includes the “Model Solar Energy Local Law” which local officials may use when adopting their own rules for solar development.
  • Planning, Zoning & Development – This section from the SolSmart Toolkit for Local Governments discusses how communities can integrate solar into local zoning codes and planning documents.
  • Solar Access: Issues and Policy Options – This blog post from NREL discusses solar energy access and the policy landscape around solar energy access.
  • Solar Guidance and Model Ordinance Development – This resource, developed by the state of Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, includes two solar siting guidance reports and an informational PowerPoint for municipalities to help explain the state’s regulations.
  • Solar PV Planning and Zoning Resources – This web page from Energize Connecticut provides tools and resources to help municipalities evaluate whether their zoning regulations make sense for PV and provide suggestions for establishing solar-friendly zoning regulations.
  • U.S. Climate Alliance: Solar Deployment Guidebook – This guidebook from NASEO was designed to equip state and local agencies with tools, strategies, and models on proven soft cost reduction methods in the following areas: permitting and inspection; zoning and siting; municipal procurement; and property taxes.
  • What Is a Solar Easement? – This article from EnergySage discusses solar easements and lists states that allow solar easements. It also briefly discusses solar access laws.
  • Becoming a Solar-Ready Community – This guide, developed by the state of Michigan for local governments, provides a 10-step process to adopting solar-ready policies at the local level. Although the guide was developed for Michigan communities, these steps can be applied by jurisdictions across the country.
  • Solar Ready KC – This white paper from the Mid-America Regional Council discusses best management practices for solar installation policy in Kansas City, Missouri, and includes a section on the benefits of and necessary steps for adopting ordinances that promote solar-ready construction.
  • Solar Ready: An Overview of Implementation Practices – This NREL resource summarizes technical considerations for solar-ready building designs.
  • Solar-Ready Building Design: A Summary of Technical Considerations – This NREL report, intended for local, state, and federal decision makers, discusses tools and methods for promoting widespread solar-ready building practices. It also includes sample legislation drafted to require that new residential and commercial construction be solar ready.

How can I speed up solar permitting?

Significant variability exists in PV permitting and inspection processes across U.S. communities, which can increase PV soft costs, and delay installations. PV permitting and inspection processes can further cause customer cancellations, thus hindering deployment.

A simplified permitting process allows residential and small commercial PV applications to be approved quickly and easily. A jurisdiction can make guidelines about eligibility for the simplified process easily accessible to homeowners, businesses, and local installers. Jurisdictions may consider adopting an instant permitting process such as SolarAPP+, updating their permit fee structure, or publishing an online permitting checklist. Best practices for solar inspections include publishing inspection requirements online, developing an online system to track inspections, and allowing virtual inspections.

For the complete list of recommendations see Section 3.3 of the Solar Power in Your Community Guidebook.

Resources

  • IREC Model Inspection Checklist for Residential Rooftop PV – This model checklist incorporates the best components of checklists from various leading U.S. jurisdictions.
  • NYSERDA Solar Guidebook – This guidebook includes a section on ‘Solar Permitting and Inspecting’ which reviews the solar permitting and inspection process for local government officials and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), as well as the New York State Unified Solar Permit Application and Field Inspection Checklist.
  • Permitting Best Practices Make Installing Solar Easier – This fact sheet from NREL outlines seven best practices to improve permitting for PV; many include ensuring transparent processes.
  • Solar Ready KC – This white paper from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council discusses best management practices for solar installation policy in Kansas City, Missouri, and includes a section on process improvements for the solar installation permitting process.
  • Solar TRACE – The Solar Time-Based Residential Analytics and Cycle Time Estimator (Solar TRACE) tool from NREL can help increase the transparency of soft costs like permitting, inspection, and interconnection.
  • SolarAPP+ – SolarAPP+ is a free online web portal developed by NREL that automates the plan review and process for issuing permits to install code-compliant residential PV systems.
  • SolSmart Program Guide – This guide outlines the criteria for being designated a SolSmart community, many of which involve process transparency. The guide also includes specific examples and templates.
  • SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting Session 1 and Session 2 – These recorded workshops discuss how to improve PV permit review and train inspection staff on best practices for inspecting PV systems.
  • SolSmart’s Solar Permitting Page – This page provides the steps necessary for a local government to implement a simplified permitting process.
  • SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments: Solar PV Construction – This guidebook presents information on codes, permitting, and inspection, including the benefits of simplified processes and best practices.
  • U.S. Climate Alliance: Solar Deployment Guidebook – This guidebook from NASEO was designed to equip state and local agencies with tools, strategies, and models on proven soft cost reduction methods in the following areas: permitting and inspection; zoning and siting; municipal procurement; and property taxes.

What are the benefits of innovative siting practices, like floatovoltaics, agrivoltaics, or solar on brownfields?

Local governments may consider more innovative approaches, such as installing technologies such electric vehicle charging infrastructure paired with solar, or consider innovative siting, like floating photovoltaics or co-locating solar with agriculture (agrivoltaics). Co-located agriculture and PV can incorporate crop production, pollinator habitat, or livestock grazing beneath solar panels, providing benefits to both the agriculture and solar energy industries. Floating photovoltaic (FPV) systems are sited primarily on artificial water bodies, such as reservoirs or water treatment impoundments, and avoid the issue of finding undeveloped land to utilize.

Local governments may also consider building solar installations on a local brownfield, which is a former industrial or commercial site that may be contaminated with pollutants, such as an old landfill, an abandoned gas station, or a decommissioned refinery. Former industrial sites are typically large, flat, and unshaded; have electricity and road infrastructure; and are located near areas with high energy demand—all features that are ideal for a PV system.

Resources

Can my community install solar on government buildings or land?

Yes. Local governments can show leadership by integrating solar into government facilities and properties, including schools. Solar on government buildings can directly benefit the community by adding renewable energy to publicly available communal spaces, reduce government energy costs, and provide educational opportunities. Leading by example can educate area residents and businesses and encourage them to adopt solar. Local governments often own land and facilities near electricity load centers, making them good hosts for renewable energy generation. Local governments can partner with solar developers or utilities on these projects.

Resources

  • Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools – This study from Generation180 includes data and trends on solar uptake in schools.
  • Procurement Guidance – This guide for cities is from the Renewables Accelerator and was developed by RMI and World Resources Institute to support the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network cities. It helps city governments understand all parts of municipal renewable energy projects.
  • Solar Decision Support and Resources for Local Governments – NREL offers decision support and resources for local governments that want to go solar. Training webinars cover topics ranging from site evaluation to project financing, as well as case studies.

How can my community develop inclusive solar-related outreach materials for community members?

Local governments can engage their communities using a variety of outreach activities that promote solar energy technologies. These activities can supplement the public’s knowledge about solar energy, promote consumer confidence, and help consumers decide whether to install solar energy systems on their properties. Different groups of people have different priorities related to adopting solar, so targeted and inclusive educational materials are important for achieving broad acceptance. For these resources to be inclusive, they should be accessible in different languages, sensitive to differences in motivation for solar adoption, and tailored to the needs of vulnerable subsets of the community.

Resources

How can my community create more jobs and prepare our residents to work in solar?

A robust solar workforce is a critical pillar of developing a local solar energy industry, and education and training programs can help develop that workforce. For solar installers, training programs help ensure consistent installer competency and, through increased consumer satisfaction, can help drive additional local demand for solar installations. In many cases, solar installer training can also help transform the careers of individuals formerly employed in industries requiring relevant skills, such as the electronical and construction industries. As solar workforces are developed, local governments can work with labor unions to provide opportunities for unionized workers to support solar deployment in their communities.

Resources for Solar Job Training

Title Organization Description
Code Official Training IREC This series of trainings covers inspection procedures for microinverter systems, AC-DC converter systems, lithium-ion storage systems, ground-mounted AC-coupled systems with storage, and commercial carport systems. There are also continuing education webinars on topics like safe inspection during COVID-19 and National Electrical Code updates.
Solar PV Safety for Firefighters IREC This training for first responders teaches the basics of how to operate safely on a solar-equipped structure.
Solar Permitting Plan Review Course Solar Training and Education for Professionals; DOE This training walks participants through a full review of a complete solar installation permit plan application. 
NABCEP Board Certifications North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) NABCEP offers board certifications for many professions within the solar industry, including PV design, solar heating installation, PV installation, and more.


Other Resources

  • Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry – This guide from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Foundation outlines best practices for enhancing diversity and inclusion in solar industry companies.
  • Just Energy Policies: Model Energy Policies Guide – This guide from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program identifies five policies that can advance the transition to a more inclusive, clean, and equitable energy economy. It includes a section that discusses local, people of color, and women hiring policies.
  • Just Energy: Reducing Pollution, Creating Jobs Toolkit – This toolkit from the NAACP provides guidance for energy justice organizing.
  • National Solar Jobs Census 2020 – The National Solar Jobs Census is a collaborative effort of SEIA, the Solar Foundation, and IREC. It tracks domestic solar employment across all solar industry market sectors.
  • Solar Career Map – This map from IREC describes 40 jobs across four solar industry sectors (manufacturing, system design, project development, and installation and operations) and outlines over 60 potential routes to advance between these jobs.
  • Solar Decathlon Career Resources – The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® fosters collaboration that mimics the real-life workplace environment among students from different academic disciplines, including engineering, architecture, building science, interior design, business, marketing, and communications. These career resources offer information about job opportunities related to competing in the Solar Decathlon, as well as building careers in solar energy, bioenergy, and wind energy.
  • Solar Energy International – SEI is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to equitable solar workforce development. This website has training resources, job boards, and other resources.
  • Solar Ready Vets – IREC leads the Solar Ready Vets Network, a program that connects transitioning military service members and veterans with career opportunities in the solar industry.
  • Solar Ready Vets Network – This group of solar workforce development programs funded by DOE connects veterans with career training, professional development, and employment opportunities in the solar industry.
  • Strategies for Workforce Development: A Toolkit for the Solar Industry – This toolkit from the Solar Foundation and the Solar Training Network describes scalable and industry-driven solutions to align training efforts with the needs of the workforce.
  • U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019 – This report from SEIA  and the Solar Foundation is a study on diversity and inclusion in the solar workforce. It includes information on career pathways, wages, satisfaction, and career development. It also provides strategies that companies can use to increase diversity and inclusion.


Featured Case Studies

Each topic area covered in the 2022 Solar Power in Your Community guidebook highlights real-world applications from a wide range of communities that have successfully implemented the policy, program, or concept. Read some of the highlighted case studies here.

 

Bronzeville, IL

Bronzeville, Illinois Microgrid Project

Bronzeville is a neighborhood in Chicago’s South Side. Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the neighborhood’s utility, built a microgrid that includes 750 kW of solar and a 500-kW storage system. The system can run continuously for 4 hours in the event of an outage. It is designed to serve 10 critical facilities and to connect to a microgrid at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The solar installations are in the Dearborn Homes Community, a public housing project composed of 16 high-rise buildings that is part of the Chicago Housing Authority. The installation serves more than 600 families. LMI residents, like those residing in the Dearborn Homes Community, are more vulnerable during power outages. The project was supported by incentives from the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act and a DOE grant.

For more information, visit ComEd Gets $4 Million To Build Microgrid in Bronzeville and Solar Housing Linked to Bronzeville Microgrid Provides Social Justice, Technology Research.

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On the southside of Chicago, an early example of community solar for low-income Americans is operating at the Dearborn Homes in the Bronzeville community, thanks in part to a DOE-funded project to support a microgrid that combines solar photovoltaics with battery storage.
U.S. Department of Energy

Philadelphia, PA

Solarize Philly Brings Solar to LMI Residents

The Solarize Philly campaign, led by the Philadelphia Energy Authority, was launched in 2017. It modified the traditional solar group buy structure to enable LMI residents to participate. The program lowered solar adoption costs but instituted a fee for traditional customers, which guaranteed payments to solar developers providing PV on LMI households. As of 2021, 6,500 households have signed up for the program, and 98 local jobs have been created.

For more information, see Solarize Philly’s home page and Philadelphia’s SolSmart designation page. See also the NREL report, Up to the Challenge: Communities Deploy Solar in Underserved Markets.

Madison, WI

GreenPower Program in Madison, Wisconsin

In 2016, Madison started a new program to train underemployed and unemployed residents from underrepresented communities in basic PV installation. Trainees work alongside electricians from the city’s engineering division to install PV on city facilities and aid in energy efficiency upgrades. As of 2020, GreenPower participants had installed 16 PV projects totaling over 813 kW, helping the city offset an estimated 765 metric tons of CO2 annually. Participants are also guided in life skills, which can aid in obtaining a permanent job after the training concludes. Participants have gone on to gain electrical apprenticeships and become certified journeymen, and some have been hired by the city.

For more information, see Madison’s GreenPower webpage.

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Madison, Wisconsin’s GreenPower Program has helped the city work toward its renewable energy goals while also training young people on solar installation. It’s a great example of how local governments can boost solar deployment and reap several other benefits at the same time.
U.S. Department of Energy

East Salinas, CA

Santa Rita Union School District Solar Plus Storage

The Santa Rita Union School District in East Salinas, California, is a preschool through eighth grade school system with four elementary schools and two middle schools. The district installed solar-plus-storage systems on each school building for power in the event of disasters and grid outages. Each system includes 1 MW of PV integrated with a 1.1-MWh energy storage system. The systems can provide up to seven hours of power at each building during a grid outage, minimizing disruptions to the school day. The systems will also provide bill savings under normal operations. The control system allows the schools to use microgrid operations and pull power from the batteries rather than the utility during periods of high demand and high pricing.

For more information, visit Solar-Plus-Storage Microgrids Installed in Santa Rita Schools.

Edina, MN

Edina, Minnesota Hosts Local Community Solar Garden

The Energy and Environment Commission of Edina, Minnesota, set the goal of becoming a leader in renewable energy. The city created an Electricity Action Plan in 2016 that included immediate and long-term actions around renewable energy opportunities. One step toward achieving these goals is hosting a 618-kW community solar garden on the roof of the Edina Public Works Building, which is available to residents from all income levels. The solar garden serves 68 households. The project resulted from a partnership between the city, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, and Cooperative Energy Futures. It became operational in 2018 and is currently fully utilized, with a waitlist for potential subscribers.

For more information, see Edina’s Electricity Action Plan, SolSmart’s Edina case study, and Edina’s SolSmart designation page.

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe County, New Mexico Provides Solar to Local MFAH

In 2019, the Santa Fe County Housing Authority (SFCHA) in New Mexico worked with the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (ICAST) to increase access to solar for local low-income multifamily affordable housing residents. At the time, community solar was not enabled in New Mexico, making it difficult to aggregate the demand from each of the individually metered units into one solar array. SFCHA and ICAST developed a plan to provide 220 kW of rooftop PV through individual solar system installations for individual apartments. These individual installations benefited residents of 196 row homes and multiplexes located at three separate locations across the county. ICAST helped SFCHA fund the program through energy performance contracting financing, allowing tenants to receive the installations at no cost.

For more information, see Access to Solar for Low-Income Residents of Multifamily Affordable Housing, ICAST Performs Income-Qualified Solar Install in Santa Fe County, and Santa Fe County’s SolSmart designation page.

Sayreville, NJ

Floating Solar in Sayreville, New Jersey

Lacking available land, Sayreville used a floating photovoltaic system to offset electricity use at the local water treatment facilities, Public Works Building, and Borough Hall. The 4.4-MW array of 12,700 panels on a pretreatment water retention pond produces enough electricity to offset 100% of the water treatment facility energy use. Because of permitting restrictions, the system was constructed differently than a typical system. Most floating photovoltaic systems are anchored to the waterbed, but local permitting rules required projects to be secured to the shore.

For more information, see New Jersey Town Keeps Its Water Clean With the Country’s Largest Floating Solar System and New Jersey Installs Largest Floating Solar System in North America.

Batesville, AR

Solar on Schools in Batesville, Arkansas

Energy savings allowed for investments in teachers in Batesville, Arkansas. In 2017, the Batesville School District was underfunded by $250,000 and paying the lowest teacher salaries in the county. The district partnered with solar developer Entegrity to install a 759-kW system, the largest solar installation of any school district in Arkansas. The district also implemented energy efficiency updates, like lighting upgrades. As part of the project, teachers were trained on how to incorporate solar technology into the STEM curriculum. As a result of the system and upgrades, the school district reduced energy consumption by 1.6 million kWh per year, which was projected to save more than $4 million over 20 years. A portion of those savings help fund pay increases for teachers. The district now ranks first in the county for teacher salaries. For more information, see Generation180’s Batesville case study.

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The Batesville School District in Arkansas added solar to its schools, saving so much money in the process that the school board has been able to increase teacher pay from a base of $30,000 to $40,000 in a matter of two years.
U.S. Department of Energy