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A Solar Developer Education: The Community Solar Learning Lab

The BrightRidge Board of Directors flipped the switch to the utility’s new solar learning lab and energy production site as officials from the Tennessee Valley Authority looked on—photo courtesy of Johnson City Press.

The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) under the U.S. Department of Energy has unveiled an exciting new development in the form of a cutting-edge community solar training program. Specifically designed to aid solar developers in embarking on new, equity-focused community solar initiatives, the program, which links up with the Community Power Accelerator Prize competition, offers prize participants a wide range of critical resources and knowledge. 

From financing strategies to permitting requirements and beyond, the program is geared towards providing participants with comprehensive know-how and expertise that will enable them to launch solar projects that promote inclusiveness and sustainability. With the new lab up and running, the NCSP is poised to facilitate a new wave of exciting, community-led solar initiatives.

What is Community Solar

Community solar is an innovative approach to solar power that has gained significant attention in recent years. It refers to a solar project or purchasing program within a specific geographic area that distributes benefits to multiple customers. 

These project-based solar programs allow households unable to install solar panels on their own rooftops to access solar power. Instead of incurring the installation costs, energy users may opt to subscribe to a shared system of solar panels located within their community. 

Through this subscription, individuals can enjoy the benefits of solar power without the need for individual panels. Community solar offers a practical solution to the challenge of limited rooftop space and resources and therefore, has excellent potential for continued growth.

How Do Solar Developers Get Access

For community-based organizations and individuals looking to become developers of community solar projects, a thorough understanding of local and state policies and regulations is crucial. 

In addition, effective community outreach and access to predevelopment funds are necessary for the success of these projects. Starting a community solar project requires technical expertise and knowledge of complex legal and financial frameworks. Interested parties must take the initiative to educate themselves and seek out resources to navigate these challenges. 

With the right guidance and resources, community solar developers can harness the power of solar energy to benefit their communities and contribute to a more sustainable future. Enter the Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab.

Photo courtesy of the Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council

The Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab

The Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab is an essential asset for small and new developers, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, and intermediary organizations looking to participate in the Community Power Accelerator Prize competition. 

This online program, led by the Center for Impact Finance at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy in collaboration with the NCSP, provides in-depth training on community solar project development and business models. This step-by-step training is accessible at no cost, equipping participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the competition. Participants can expand and refine their understanding of community solar projects through the Learning Lab and push towards a more sustainable future.

The course, led by Eric Hangen, a senior research fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy, is designed to help participants earn a prestigious digital badge from the University of New Hampshire as a Community Solar Development Professional. This badge is a testament to the student’s mastery and ability to put into practice the technical knowledge gained from the course.

The Center for Impact Finance at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy. Photo courtesy Resonant Energy

Lecture Intensives

Through this comprehensive training program, participants will gain in-depth knowledge of the brass-tacks aspects of community solar project development, including legal, financial, and regulatory compliance. 

An intensive, instructor-led course featuring guest lecturers and expert speakers. This course delivers practical information to guide community-based, mission-driven, and low-income-focused organizations in developing community power projects that serve low-income communities and further environmental and social justice.  

The course consists of seven learning modules and weekly, instructor-led Zoom sessions. To participate, organizations must have completed the Introduction to Community Solar self-paced course, including the self-assessment exercise and written assignment at the end of the course, and be accepted into the course. 

The Community Power Accelerator

Along with the key working groups, technical assistance, training, and strategic partnerships, this state-of-the-art program is set to herald a new era of community solar projects. With a keen focus on facilitating equitable deployment, the Community Power Accelerator™ is poised to drive a transformation in access and participation to increase energy efficiency while creating new opportunities for lending and philanthropic support.

The initiative’s integral components of the Learning Lab and prize competition promise to present exciting challenges and opportunities while igniting a fresh approach towards efficient, forward-thinking solar projects.

The $10 Million Community Power Accelerator Prize

The $10 million Community Power Accelerator Prize is now open for interested developers who are passionate about advancing their mission to expand their staff and operations to design and deploy multiple community solar projects. 

This cash prize is specifically designed to support mission-aligned developers in achieving their goals of providing readily available solar power projects that aim to empower and uplift communities. 

The prize money is a significant boost for developers seeking to substantially impact the renewable energy sector. The prize will award cash prizes to the winners, enabling them to have more resources at their disposal, allowing them to achieve their objectives faster. Developers who are ready to take on this challenge are encouraged to apply.

The Learning Lab and prize competition have been enlisted as integral components of the Community Power Accelerator™ – an innovative initiative that aims to speed up the development of community solar projects and promote increased access to an online marketplace. 

Contact Greentech United today to accelerate your community solar power program. 

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