graphical depiction of a town where all the buildings have solar panels.

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. Partners leverage peer networks and technical assistance resources to set goals and work to overcome persistent barriers to expanding community solar access to underserved communities.

To join the partnership and learn more about its work, visit the National Community Solar Partnership website.

Objectives

There are three goals of the partnership:

  • Make community solar accessible to every U.S. household;
  • Ensure community solar is affordable for every U.S. household; and
  • Enable communities to realize supplementary benefits and other value streams from community solar installations.

Approach

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: Structured groups of partners, called collaboratives, form around specific goals to address common barriers to solar adoption by learning from each other and sharing resources.

Background

Community Solar

The U.S. Department of Energy defines a community solar project as one that has multiple subscribers who receive benefits on utility bills that are directly attributable to the project. A community solar subscription means ownership of a financial share in a community solar project that serves multiple consumers.

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 under-resourced and over-burdened 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 Solar in Your Community Challenge, which ended in 2019, identified three main takeaways:

  • 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. The program initially began in 2015 and received additional funding in 2019. Learn about the origins of NCSP.

SETO Community Solar Timeline

Learn more about SETO’s soft costs research, how soft costs works, and explore solar energy resources.