The Department of Energy has selected the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for a $1 million research grant to make solar energy more affordable for communities with fewer financial resources and extend the benefits of solar development to low- and moderate-income consumers.
The Cooperatives Achieving Rural Equity in Solar project will develop models, best practices, and other resources for electric cooperatives, solar developers and community and regional financial institutions. The project partners will provide $300,000 in funding.
The CARES project includes two financial institution partners, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. and CoBank, to develop solutions that take advantage of financial assistance programs, guarantees and opportunity zone designations (where and when applicable) to make solar energy development more affordable.
NRECA is conducting this project in collaboration with GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to making renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.
“The cost of solar deployment, while declining, can still be a barrier for electric cooperatives and their members who want to develop community solar projects. The CARES project will help cooperatives make solar more accessible and bring new economic benefits to their communities,” said Jim Matheson, chief executive officer at NRECA.
The project will convene a diverse group of stakeholders, including rural electric cooperatives, community and regional financial institutions, non-profit organizations, foundations, solar developers, economic development agencies, and electric co-op consumer-members.
NRECA will build on its record of DOE-funded research, which includes the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration project. This project helped reduce the soft costs, barriers to entry and business risks of implementing co-op utility photovoltaic solar.