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The Solar Energy Innovation Network is a program that supports multistakeholder teams that research and share solutions to reduce barriers to solar energy adoption using real-world data. Project teams may include entities such as state and local governments, electric utilities, companies, nonprofits, and universities. The Innovation Network is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and launched on July 13, 2017.


Innovation Network teams will receive technical assistance and facilitation support from NREL and other expert partners for 15 to 18 months, as well as funding from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, to identify local and regional impacts of their projects, formulate and test innovations, and validate new models. The teams meet in person for several multiday work sessions.

NREL places the teams in groups based on their common challenges so they can share insights, research, and innovative solutions. In addition, a peer network comprised of other stakeholder teams apply the insights and solutions developed in the program to advance their own projects. 


This program seeks to foster and share replicable, affordable solutions that facilitate solar energy adoption and increase resiliency of the nation’s electric grid. These solutions will enable stakeholders facing similar challenges across the United States to overcome their obstacles. 


Round 1

Round 1 of the Solar Energy Innovation Network includes nine teams and addressed the following topic areas:

  • Improving Reliability and Affordability of Renewable Energy Through Options Analysis and Systems Design – Teams focused on identifying the expected grid impacts and costs for various amounts of solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs), like storage.
  • Improving Grid Flexibility and Resiliency Through Advanced Siting and Operations of Solar + DER – Teams focused on quantifying the value of combining solar and other DERs for grid flexibility, reliability, and resiliency. 

Round 2

Round 2, announced on July 25, 2019, includes eight teams and addresses the following topic areas:

  • Solar in Rural Communities – Teams will conduct analysis and testing to help cooperative utilities, counties, and other rural community stakeholders study the potential for solar energy to improve energy affordability and resilience in rural contexts.
  • Commercial-Scale Solar – Teams will perform research and analysis to address market barriers and reduce the costs of solar energy for commercial buildings, such as offices, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, retail stores, college campuses, and multifamily residential buildings.

Both topics will also include solar combined with other technologies, such as storage, and in microgrids.

Learn More

Find out more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s national laboratory research.