Late last month the Department of Energy launched Solar in Your Community Challenge. It’s an effort to make it easier for everyone in the US to benefit from the clean energy and potential cost-savings that solar power offers. Now the challenge is going on a tour.
The challenge itself is focussed on creating new and innovative financial and business models that increase access to solar power particularly for low- and moderate-income communities. It's offering a total of $5 million in cash prizes and technical assistance to teams that are developing such projects or programs. It also seeks models that can be widely replicated and adopted by others.
This week the DOE’s SunShot Initiative is hosting four “pitchathon” events across the country. The events are designed to help local communities learn about the challenge and its opportunities. The events are being hosted in Columbia, SC; St. Paul, MN; Decorah, Iowa and Santa Fe, NM.
While community solar is expected to be the largest form of distributed solar in the US by as soon as 2020, the people who it can benefit most currently have the hardest time accessing it. Homeowners with ample rooftops can finance solar power through a variety of means, solar loans, power-purchase agreements and leases for example. Even some lower-income homeowners can qualify for such installations.
However, those with lower incomes and/or with lower credit scores can’t qualify for home solar. Likewise, those who rent or lease can’t usually install solar on their homes.
Since community solar is still relatively new, financing is the most difficult part. Lenders are still more wary of helping people buy into or finance a part of community solar farm than home solar and still usually require higher qualifications—like higher credit scores. Hopefully, this effort will make it easier to lower that bar solar more can access lower cost solar.
The tour hit the EdVenture Children’s Museum in South Carolina on Monday.
The remaining dates and locations are:
Minnesota Pitchathon Dec. 6, 2016, 3:30pm—5:00pm University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus, 306 Borlaug Hall 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108
Iowa Pitchathon Dec. 8, 2016, 7:30am—9:00am Hotel Winneshiek 104 E Water St, Decorah, IA 52101
New Mexico Pitchathon Dec. 9, 2016, 10:00am—12:00pm Porter Hall, Energy Efficiency Working Group 1220 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM