The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household by 2025. This partnership will develop multi-stakeholder teams to convene around specific goals, provide technical assistance for unique local challenges, and develop an online community platform to support information exchange. The program was announced on Wednesday, September 25, 2019.
To meet these goals, NCSP provides an array of national and local stakeholders — state, local, and tribal governments, utilities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and others — the tools and information they need to design and implement successful community solar models. The partnership will provide these through three major activities:
- Network Infrastructure: Partners have access to an online community platform, virtual and in-person meetings, webinars and other tools to engage with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) staff and each other.
- Technical Assistance: Partners have access to technical assistance resources from DOE, its National Laboratories, and independent third-party subject-matter experts for support on unique local challenges.
- Collaboration: Multi-stakeholder teams of partners form groups around specific goals to address common barriers to solar adoption by learning from each other and sharing resources.
The program will provide support to multi-stakeholder teams for 18 to 24 months so that they can achieve specific goals under a particular topic. To start, the partnership plans to focus on the following topic areas:
- Developing community solar models that enable adoption in underserved communities
- Community solar models that reduce energy bills for those living in multifamily affordable housing units
- Utility partnerships around community solar models to expand solar access in their communities
The program has three broad goals:
- Make community solar accessible to every U.S. household
- Ensure community solar is affordable for every U.S. household
- Enable communities to realize supplementary benefits and other value streams from community solar installations
We broadly define community solar to include any solar project or purchasing program, within a geographic area, in which the benefits flow to multiple participants (individuals, businesses, nonprofits, etc.). According to analysis by the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), nearly 50% of households and businesses are unable to host rooftop solar systems. Expanding access to community solar options helps connect more Americans with clean energy for the first time. Community solar allows renters, tenants, and residents to access solar energy regardless of where they live or the suitability of their rooftop. This allows more people to offset monthly energy bills while increasing their community’s resiliency, enhancing workforce opportunities, and spurring economic development.
Expanding Access to Solar
Certain underserved markets, including low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations, nonprofit organizations, and other community-serving entities, such as municipal governments, still face significant barriers to affordable solar deployment. A report from NREL that analyzed the recently competed Solar in Your Community Challenge identified three main takeaways from the challenge:
- Clearly understand how federal, state, and local policies enable local solar projects.
- Build durable and long-term partnerships with community members and solar stakeholders.
- Develop a creative portfolio of financing solutions for small- and medium-size solar projects.
NCSP builds on the successes of the Solar in Your Community Challenge to support the replication of new and existing community solar models by partnering with diverse stakeholders across the country that are interested in expanding affordable access to solar. Learn more about the origins of NCSP here.
Community Solar – This webpage has the latest information from NREL about community solar, including links to recent reports.
Up to the Challenge: Communities Deploy Solar in Underserved Markets – This NREL report describes the Solar in Your Community Challenge and the top technical challenges the participating teams faced, and outlines some key takeaways.
Solar For All Data Explorer – This is a web application from NREL to help LMI rooftop solar technical potential at the tract level, including overlays for opportunity zones and other geospatial datasets.
Clean Energy for Low-Income Communities Accelerator (CELICA) – The U.S. Department of Energy’s CELICA toolkit provides an overview of tools, resources, and models for developing low-income energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including community solar. The information is based on CELICA’s two-year partnership with over 30 stakeholders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Low-income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool – This is a web application, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, to help make data-driven decisions on energy goals and program planning by improving understanding LMI household energy characteristics.
Solar Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR) – This is a simple comparison spreadsheet tool, developed by NREL, that facilitates the calculation of the Savings to Investment Ratio, a metric used to measure the ability of a technology to recover the investment costs through savings achieved from customer utility-bill cost reduction.
Design and Implementation of Community Solar Programs for Low- and Moderate-Income Customers – This report draws on the experience of LMI solar developers and state LMI solar programs to gain insights into the successes and barriers of deploying community solar programs.
Modeling the Cost of LMI Community Solar Participation: Preliminary Results – This report seeks to understand the level of incentives needed to drive LMI customer participation in community solar.
Low-Income Community Solar: Utility Return Considerations for Electric Cooperatives – This report identifies project structures that make low-income community solar projects more cost-effective, replicable, and scalable for electric cooperative and municipal utilities.
Focusing the Sun: State Considerations for Designing Community Solar Policy – This report summarizes outcomes from the NCSP State Best Practices working group by identifying key differences in state policies that enable community solar and illustrating how various policy design approaches may impact the market.
If you’re interested in joining the partnership or learning more, please send us an email.
Learn more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s soft costs research.