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Three New Ways to Make Solar a Reality

It seems like just yesterday we were sharing the news that we’d been tapped by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to serve as the national coordinator for Solar Market Pathways. Now we’re already in the project’s third and final year.

This $15 million Department of Energy investment in 14 projects across the country has supported everything from improving interconnection policies and forging new utility collaborations to creating financing mechanisms and integrating solar into emergency preparedness. Its goal is to support innovations that could drive down the cost of solar energy and unleash new markets and business models.

As National Coordinator, the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) works to widely disseminate and replicate these new models, tools and approaches. This year, we’ll be focusing our replication efforts on three exciting innovations that emerged from the program, and we’re looking for communities ready to put these strategies into action.

Community Solar Market Activation

Community solar, also known as shared solar, represents a promising frontier in the expansion and acceleration of solar deployment nationwide. Community solar programs allow multiple participants to benefit from electricity generated by a shared solar energy system that’s typically off-site, giving consumers an alternative to placing solar on their own property. Over the past two years, our partners in Cook County have been leading an effort to launch the community solar market in Illinois. They have developed community solar resources, cost-benefit and business-case tools and an online application that attracted more than 100 property owners to express interest in hosting a community solar system.

Is your community or community-based organization interested in kick-starting your community solar market? We’re looking for communities that want to replicate this approach. Contact us to learn more about this opportunity, and check out our online toolkit to learn more about community solar.

Community Resilience through Solar + Storage

Innovations in battery storage are making it possible to use solar energy to support community facilities such as shelters, medical centers and emergency facilities during power outages. Through Solar Market Pathways, projects in New York and San Francisco have developed a set of tools and approaches that can help communities identify and prioritize sites, estimate critical loads and battery sizing and understand key challenges in financing, permitting and more.

ISC is seeking cities interested in identifying opportunities for solar and battery storage to support their community resilience goals. Contact us for more information.

Collaborative Procurement for Colleges and Beyond

Finding ways to engage large institutions and drive down solar costs is an important strategy to building a strong solar market. The Council of Independent Colleges of Virginia (CICV) project is working with 15 colleges to develop and deploy solar projects in a market that has few incentives for solar. CICV created a model that provides each campus with the access to expertise needed to develop a solar roadmap, conduct feasibility assessments and leverage group purchasing power to drive down costs. The project has developed templates for roadmaps, procurement, financing and student involvement. This year, we hope to work with additional campus associations and networks to replicate this process and realize the significant savings and benefits of collaborative procurement. Check out our online toolkit to learn more about bringing solar solutions to campuses.

Are you interested in any of these areas and want to learn more? We’d love to hear from you.