RREAL a Winner in a National Competition to Expand Solar Access

20 May 2019

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) announced that it won Runner Up for the Best Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) Projects in the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a $5 million prize competition from the U.S. Department of Energy that aims to expand solar electricity access. After nearly 20 years of delivering solar energy to low-income families, RREAL and its partner communities won national recognition for their innovative Community Solar for Community Action (CS4CA) model that is empowering low-income communities and ensuring solar energy is accessible to all. Competing against more than 170 teams from 43 states and territories, this Minnesota based organization received the honor of runner up. 

Over the past 2 years, RREAL developed a community solar program that partnered with energy assistance providers to empower low-income families, nonprofits, and First Nations in Minnesota and Vermont with solar energy savings. The goal of Community Solar for Community Action (CS4CA) is to demonstrate and deliver a fiscally responsible, environmentally sustainable, and nationally scalable solution to energy poverty. RREAL’s program model works with local Community Action Partnerships (CAPs) to make safe, clean, renewable energy accessible to all people, and to empower every American in need. Community Solar for Community Action ensures that low-income households and communities can also choose clean energy and benefit from the cost-stabilizing technologies harnessing the renewable resources of the sun! 

“Annual Energy Assistance is a crucial protection for families, but a stopgap is not a solution. Rather than simply paying low-income families’ energy bills year after year, we can permanently empower our communities with solar energy solutions and ensure that low-income Americans can benefit from solar energy,” said Jason Edens, Director of RREAL. “We are incredibly grateful to all of our partners and supporters over the years who made this innovative project possible. Our program is benefitting people all the way from the Leech Lake Nation in northern Minnesota to Windham and Windsor counties in rural southeastern Vermont. More importantly, we are forging an empowering national model of low-income energy assistance! The systems we installed will help bring financial stability and peace of mind to 107 low-income households and 3 non-profits: Leech Lake Energy Assistance Program, American Indian Community Housing Organization, and Southeastern Vermont Community Action. These systems are saving people over 22% on their energy bills.” 

By partnering with local Community Action Partnerships (CAPs) who run the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in their communities, RREAL can easily identify income eligible families using the existing process. Furthermore, by focusing on 100% low-income solar arrays, RREAL can maximize the impact of every dollar on freeing people from the grip of energy poverty. RREAL’s model of developing low-income community solar arrays ensures that anyone in need can participate in solar energy savings. CS4CA provides solar to people who would not qualify because of a low or no credit score, renters in multi-family housing, or those not able to put solar on their own roof because of shading, weight capacity, or high upfront costs. CS4CA community solar benefits can go to whoever needs them most at a given time, empowering low-income families and communities with the benefits of solar energy. 

RREAL plans to develop many more Community Solar for Community Action Partnerships in the coming years and continue innovating within the solar industry. 

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance | http://www.rreal.org/cs4ca