Local governments can play a pivotal role in expanding access to solar for residents in their communities by launching a “Solarize” campaign. Solarize campaigns come in many forms and go by many names (e.g., bulk purchasing, solar co-ops, and solar for all) but typically have three essential elements:
Competitive installer selection process:
Campaign organizers leverage a request for proposals (RFP) process to receive multiple pricing proposals and select an installer that meets community priorities, which often include enabling a group of residents to access a bulk solar purchasing discount.
Community outreach and education:
Community organizations and local governments partner under one effort to educate community members about the benefits of solar energy so they can make an informed decision.
Limited sign-up window:
Limiting the campaign to a three- to six-month period from the first promotion to the sign-up deadline creates a sense of urgency for potential participants and enables residents to adopt solar in a streamlined process.
Historically, typical Solarize campaigns have not been successful at reaching residents of color and low- and moderate-income (LMI) households. To increase inclusivity and enable more participation from residents of color and LMI residents, this guide integrates three additional elements in Solarize campaigns:
A Solarize team structured with the marginalized community at the core:
Engaging frontline community-based organizations (CBOs) as primary partners early in the process enables CBOs to integrate the community’s voice and priorities in a campaign’s structure and goals from the start.
Lessened financial barriers for LMI residents:
Securing funding to provide incentives specifically for those with lower incomes and partnering with financial institutions to provide affordable and accessible capital can help reduce or remove financial barriers for LMI residents.
Outreach tailored to marginalized residents:
Prioritizing outreach methods and messages that address the interests and needs of marginalized residents will increase their willingness to participate.
This guide walks local government staff, CBOs, and other campaign stakeholders through the process of structuring an inclusive Solarize campaign. The guidance and integrated templates were developed with support from Solar United Neighbors and Solar CrowdSource and incorporate key insights from various Solarize publications, including:
- The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Solarize Guidebook
- The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Resource Guide to Solarize Campaign Success
- The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies’ review of SmartPower’s Solarize Campaigns in the Solarize Your Community and Wherever the Sun Shines guidebooks
- The Clean Energy States Alliance’s Planning and Implementing a Solarize Initiative and Solar with Justice guides
- GRID Alternatives, Vote Solar, and Center for Social Inclusion’s Low-Income Solar Policy Guide
- Solar United Neighbors’ Pathway to Prosperity report and The Ultimate Solar Co-op Guide