DOE Launches $50 Million Program to Help Communities Meet Their Clean Energy Goals
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today launched a new up to $50 million program to help communities across the country transition to clean energy systems that are reliable, affordable, equitable, and reflective of local priorities. The Clean Energy to Communities program (C2C) will connect local governments, electric utilities, community-based groups, and others with the innovative modeling and testing tools developed at DOE’s world-class national laboratories to transform their clean energy goals and ambitions into reality.Read more
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) - Due MARCH 31, 2023
The program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Agricultural producers may also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing.Read more
Solar For Tribal & Indigenous Communities
Solar energy continues to be an important resource for tribes, especially to support energy savings, resilience and sovereignty. Important funding resources may be available to help assess feasibility and implement solar energy projects, as well as provide workforce development training to promote tribal members' involvement in the renewable energy industry. The following grant funding resources have been utilized by tribes for solar project development:
- GRID Alternatives Tribal Solar Program - GRID Alternatives helps tribal communities achieve their clean energy goals while providing financial savings and job training opportunities to improve their members' quality of life
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) - Renewable Energy System Grants - REAP provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.
- WA State Department of Commerce - Energy Efficiency & Solar Grants - The Energy Retrofits for Public Buildings program provides grant funding for public entities such as towns, cities, tribes and public agencies to make energy updates to public buildings and facilities.
- Solar Deployment Grant Program - Clean Energy Fund - The Solar Deployment program supports the development of projects that deliver environmental and economic benefits to Washington communities. The most recent grant cycle offered funding to support low-income community solar deployment.
- Department of Energy – Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs - Lists federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy, and other entities that provide funding and financing to support tribal energy development.
|The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Energy Program is another great resource for tribes interested in solar energy, including upcoming events. Link to ATNI website.|
As sovereign nations, tribal communities are eligible for a wide array of grant funding resources, workforce development training assistance, and the ability to establish a tribal utility authority.
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy supports a variety of energy-related projects on tribal lands. Through these projects, tribes and Alaska Native villages have built the institutional capacity to manage their energy needs, assessed the feasibility of energy efficiency and renewable energy installations, and demonstrated the viability of installing renewable energy systems on tribal lands. Solar projects include:
- Muckleshoot Indian Tribe - Energy Deployment (MIT-ED)
- Lummi Nation - Health and Wellness Center Solar PV Project
- The Spokane Indian Housing Authority (SIHA) - Children of The Sun Energy Infrastructure Initiative
|Crew members install solar panels on tribal elder housing at the Spokane Tribe reservation in Wellpinit, May 16, 2019. (Courtesy of GRID Alternatives)|
With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a significant amount of grant funding opportunities are available to tribes, especially for solar project installation, resiliency improvements, and microgrid systems that incorporate battery energy storage. Funding is available specifically for Tribes to plan for and adapt to climate change, mitigate drought, support fisheries, and shift to clean energy production and use. In particular, The Inflation Reduction Act allows tribes to receive direct payment tax credits for wind, solar and other clean energy technologies.
According to the IRA Guidebook, IRA provides $75 million to help guarantee up to $20 billion in loans to support tribal investment in energy-related projects and $150 million to electrify tribal homes with clean energy. The Act also appropriates $225 million for tribal climate resilience, which can include support for community-driven relocation for tribes threatened by the impacts of climate change.
Tribes are eligible for most of the clean energy tax incentives in the law and many of the other funding programs described in the guide and under President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.
Other projects in Washington
On Washington’s Colville reservation, solar-powered microfarm looks to prove model to boost food, energy sovereignty
In 2020, PSE Awarded 10 Local Organizations Funding for New Solar Installations (including the Lummi Nation Housing Authority and Muckleshoot Housing Authority). Click to read article (from Thurston Talk).
Special thanks to Jack Newman, SolarWA Board Member (and with Sazan Environmental Services) for his contribution to this page.
Community solar is a collective or sharing model for going solar. In community solar, a large solar array is built and then the benefits are shared among many who are given or purchase or lease individual shares.
Community solar arrays can be hosted and administered by a variety of entities, including utilities, solar developers, residential or commercial landlords, community and nonprofit organizations, or a combination thereof. Currently the two most common models of community solar are: a utility-led community solar, typically open to all customers, that tends to be larger, ground-mounted, and often incorporates a set-aside to low-income community members or supporting organizations, and the non-profit-led community solar, which is generally smaller, often rooftop-mounted and tend to direct a substantial portion of benefits to low-income individuals or supporting organizations.
Community solar is a fantastic option to increase access to solar since it makes solar accessible to people who cannot install their own solar panels because they don’t own their home, or because they don’t have the space, resources, solar orientation, or roof condition necessary to install their own PV system.
Sharing the Sun: Community Solar Deployment, Subscription Savings, and Energy Burden Reduction (Jenny Heeter, NREL Kaifeng Xu, NREL Gabriel Chan, University of Minnesota July 2021)
Community Solar in Washington
In 2005 the Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Payment Program (Legacy Program) was created to allow an individual, business, or local government that owns an eligible renewable energy system to apply to its electric utility for an investment cost recovery incentive payment for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced by the system (net-metering). The Legacy Program was expanded in 2009 to include community solar projects, but closed to new customer participants by October 2017.
In 2017 the Washington State University Extension Energy Program (WSU Energy Program) was directed to launch and administer a program known as the Renewable Energy Production Incentive Program (Production Incentive Program) to certify an applicant's eligibility to receive annual production incentive payments for each kWh of alternating current electricity generated by the system. It closed to new project certifications by July 2021.
Under the current Community Solar Expansion Program (2SHB1814), WSU is authorized to administer and implement a new community solar incentive program that provides up to $100 million in payment for community solar projects that offer direct benefits to low-income subscribers, low-income service provider subscribers, and qualifying tribal and public agencies.
A community solar project is defined as a solar energy system of more than 12 kW and no greater than 199 kW and has at least two low-income subscribers or one low-income service provider. A community solar project may include a storage system. Beginning July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2033, an administrator of an eligible community solar project may apply to the WSU Energy Program to receive a precertification for the project.
A qualified administrator could be a utility, nonprofit, tribal housing authority, or other local housing authority. Qualified subscribers are low-income subscribers, low-income service provider subscribers, and tribal and public agency subscribers.
If the WSU Energy Program approves the precertification, within two years the project must be completed and the administrator must apply for certification. If the WSU Energy Program then certifies a project, the utility serving the site of a community solar project is authorized to remit a one-time low-income community solar incentive payment to the administrator. The administrator accepts the payment on behalf of, and for the purpose of providing direct benefits to, the project's qualifying subscribers.
The WSU Energy Program may certify community solar projects to receive one-time incentive payments up to $100 million of which $2 million must be used to support nonprofit organizations' innovative approaches to allocating benefits to subscribers or building partnerships; and $2 million must be available to tribal governments.
WSU Community Solar Expansion Page
WSU Low-Income Community Solar Precertification Application
In 2021, the Washington State Department of Commerce Solar Deployment Grant Program allocated $3.7 million in grants for nine solar energy projects across the state that support low-income community solar deployment.
Recent Community Solar Projects in Washington
More Examples of Community Solar Projects
|The Anacortes Public Library community solar system was funded by Skagit Community Solar Projects using an LLC model under the legacy incentive program. Link to project details.|
|Benton PUD has two Community Solar Projects: The Ely Community Solar Project in Kennewick and the Old Inland Empire Community Solar Project in Prosser. Link to project details.|
|Clark Public Utilities has five Community Solar projects adjacent to one another on-site at the utility Operations Center in Orchards. The location was chosen for its prime solar exposure, visibility and cost-effective proximity to existing electrical infrastructure. The arrays began generating electricity to the Clark Public Utilities electric grid in June 2015. Link to project details.|
|Friends of the Olympia Farmers Market installed a community owned solar system atop the Olympia Farmer’s Market building in 2011. Link to project details.|
|The Decatur Island Community Solar project from Orcas Power & Light Co-Op is on 3.6 acres at the Decatur substation. It began harvesting energy in July of 2018. It is expected to produce around 570,000 kwH annually. Approximately 270 OPALCO members own shares in this project. Link to project details.|
|Puget Sound Energy's Solar Choice program offers customers the option of benefitting from solar energy generated at different locations within its service territory. Examples include Greenbank Farm Community Solar on Whidbey Island and the Kingston Community Solar project. Link to project details.|
|Seattle City Light has four community solar projects with 1300 participants and generating 190,000 kilowatt hours of solar power annually including the Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), for its fourth Community Solar project (pictured left). Link to project details.|
|This community solar array pictured left is located in Arlington, WA as part of the Arlington Microgrid Project by Snohomish County Public Utility District #1. The Arlington Microgrid and Clean Energy Technology Center project represents a new technology and approach that offers grid resiliency and renewable energy integration. Link to project details.|
|In 2014, Seattle City Light partnered with Woodland Park Zoo and the Phinney Neighborhood Association to install the state’s largest community solar project. The Community Solar on Phinney Ridge project was designed for a system of about 74 kilowatts on the roofs of two buildings at the zoo and PNA’s Phinney Center. It is expected to produce more than 75,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.|
|Spokane Valley-based Vera Water & Power first Community Solar project was installed back in 2016. Link to project details.|