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Solar for All

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The Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Amendment Act of 2016 (The Act), effective October 8, 2016, established the District of Columbia’s Solar for All Program (Solar for All). The Act intends to expand DC’s solar capacity, to increase the amount of solar generated within the District, and to provide the benefits of locally-generated solar energy to low-income households, small businesses, nonprofits, and seniors. Funded by the Renewable Energy Development Fund and administered by DOEE, Solar for All’s specific targets are to provide the benefits of solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households (at or below 80% Area Median Income), and to reduce their energy bills by 50% (based on the 2016 residential rate class average) by 2032.

In late 2016, DOEE established the Solar for All Task Force, comprising 13 solar professionals in the private and nonprofit sectors, including solar development, affordable housing, and green workforce. The Task Force was formed to recommend ways to effectively design and implement Solar for All. DOEE also released two Requests for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas from industry professionals and the general public on developing a long-term solar program in the District. Informed by Solar for All Task Force recommendations and feedback from the two RFIs, DOEE submitted its Solar for All Implementation Plan to the Council of the District of Columbia in early 2017.

As described in the Implementation Plan, DOEE will implement Solar for All in five three-year phases to ensure the program is sufficiently flexible to adapt to market changes and overcome barriers. The initial implementation phase (FY17-FY19) will include development of 30 to 60 MW of solar capacity, subject to funding availability. This phase will also focus on researching and developing the solutions necessary to execute large-scale projects in subsequent implementation phases. Much of this work is being completed through strategic external and inter-agency partnerships and Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grants.

Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grants

In February 2017, DOEE announced two Requests for Applications (RFA) for $13.2 million in Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grants. The RFA guidelines focus on research and development and seek to address four overarching program goals: (1) to expand solar energy in the District; (2) to provide benefits to low-income residents; (3) to develop solutions to program challenges; and (4) and to identify solutions DOEE can use to establish the most effective, predictable, and stable medium-term program. The RFA guidelines required projects to address at least one of these five core barriers:

  • Acquiring access to potential project sites by tailoring incentives to the respective project site owners/lessors;
  • Addressing competition for access to roof space due to conflicting incentives or requirements
  • Acquiring low-income customers, educating eligible residents and building owners, and managing community solar subscriptions;
  • Providing solar power benefits to low-income residents who do not receive electric bills (e.g., master-metered building residents)
  • Sharing the energy and other financial benefits (SRECs and ITC) associated with the installation of new solar energy systems with low-income residents

The RFAs also encouraged project proposals to address these additional barriers:

  • Incorporating electric or thermal storage for efficiency and/or resiliency;
  • Combining solar installation with energy efficiency measures;
  • Achieving net-zero energy through solar;
  • Utilizing atypical spaces (e.g., road barriers, brownfields, or windows) for solar installations;
  • Providing District residents with comprehensive solar job training while installing new solar systems;
  • Incorporating technologies, such as smart inverters, to add value to the distribution grid; and
  • Designing the solar PV system to reduce the distribution system’s peak demand.

FY17-FY18 Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grant Projects

In late 2017, DOEE selected the following proposals to fund; several of those projects are now underway. Each proposal takes a different approach and will, therefore, provide different benefits to households. Each of these nine projects is summarized below.

Grantee Name Grant Amount ($)

Project Description

Community Power Network (CPN) - DC SUN is a project of Community Power Network $2,000,000

This grant will fund CPN’s Low-Income Solar Co-op Program, which will bring low-income residents together in a group or solar co-op, to provide more affordable bulk procurement of solar installations. CPN will pay for the full installation of panels on the homes of low-income residents. Low-income homeowners will receive all the associated financial benefits of solar, at no cost. CPN plans to install 750 kW, serving up to 231 households.

Groundswell, Inc. $1,261,590

This grant will fund Groundswell’s installation of solar panels on six houses of worship in Wards 4, 7, and 8, which will result in free, 22-year community solar subscriptions for low-income households. Groundswell will provide local employment and apprenticeship opportunities, and solar jobs skills training. Groundswell plans to install 366 kW, serving up to 122 households.

New Partners Community Solar Corp. (formed by Nixon Peabody LLP) $2,000,000

This grant will fund New Partners Community Solar Corp.’s installation of solar panels on 15-25 commercial, nonprofit, and apartment rooftops, resulting in free, 25-year community solar subscriptions for low-income households. New Partners Community Solar Corp. plans to install 1 MW, serving at least 325 households.

Urban Energy Advisors (DBA Urban Ingenuity) in partnership with NHT Enterprise $1,517,655 This grant will fund Urban Energy Advisors’ installation of solar energy systems on affordable, multifamily buildings. Urban Energy Advisors plans to install 1 MW, serving up to 402 households.
PEER Consultants, P.C. $1,250,000 This grant will fund PEER Consultants, P.C.’s installation of solar panels on affordable, multifamily buildings, resulting in free, 15-year community solar subscriptions for low-income households. The grantee will also educate building owners on how their rooftops could be used for solar generation and other environmental measures, including stormwater retention and methods for reducing urban heat island effect. PEER Consultants, P.C. plans to install 500 kW, serving 100 low-income households.
Neighborhood Solar Equity, LLC (collaboration between Community Renewable Energy, Root + Branch, and Kelly Electric) $1,177,506 This grant will fund Neighborhood Solar Equity, LLC’s installation of solar energy systems on several buildings at a local university. Electricity will be provided to the university. Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) revenue from the project will benefit low-income residents for 15 years. Neighborhood Solar Equity, LLC plans to install 595 kW, serving up to 100 households.
Open Market ESCO LLC (the energy services division of WinnCompanies) $1,347,737 This grant will fund Open Market ESCO LLC ‘s installation of solar panels on 4 roofs of Atlantic Terrace, a 195-unit affordable multifamily property in Ward 8, resulting in free, 15-year community solar subscriptions for low-income residents. The grantee will also provide education to low-income residents regarding the benefits of solar. Open Market ESCO LLC plans to install 548 kW, serving the 195 households at Atlantic Terrace.
Ethos Strategic Consulting, LLC $1,790,000 This grant will fund Ethos Strategic Consulting, LLC’s installation of solar canopies over surface parking lots at several affordable housing properties. The benefits from the electricity generated in this community solar project will be provided in the form of direct payments to the low-income residents of the adjacent properties for 25 years. Ethos Strategic Consulting, LLC plans to install 1 MW, serving up to 350 households.
Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) $300,000

This grant will fund CPDC’s installation of solar panels on the rooftops of 14 multifamily properties owned by CPDC. The proceeds from the electricity generated will reduce operating costs for CPDC. CPDC will use these cost savings to invest building upgrades, new amenities, and resident services. CPDC plans to install 1 MW, serving 2,800 low-income households.

Strategic External Partnerships

In addition to the Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grant Projects, DOEE has funded three projects aimed at catalyzing solar installation. These projects, outlined below, demonstrate replicable solutions.

  • Community Solar Pilot
    DOEE provided $175,000 in grant funding to New Partners Community Solar Corp. to pilot the first community solar project in the District. The grant provided gap financing to assist with the development and operation of community solar arrays on three properties owned and managed by Brookfield Office Properties, located in downtown DC. The grantee installed 187 kW of solar capacity, which now serves approximately 100 low-income residents of National Housing Trust and Mission First affordable housing properties.
  • Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience Audit and Solar Tool for Affordable Housing
    DOEE awarded $250,000 to Enterprise Community Partners, in partnership with New Ecology, the National Housing Trust, and the Clean Energy Group, to develop a tool to assess the vulnerability of the District’s affordable housing to the impacts of climate change and to identify opportunities to improve resilience, reduce energy use, install solar and install battery storage systems. The project supports the goals of both Solar for All and Climate Ready DC, the District’s plan to prepare for climate change. In addition to developing the tool, the grantees will complete assessments of at least 20 affordable housing properties. This project will help catalyze the affordable housing sector to strategically integrate resilience planning and solar assessments in their planning, development, and operations.
  • Low-Income Energy Efficiency and Solar-Ready Roof Demonstration
    In 2017, DOEE launched a demonstration project at Garfield Terrace (a DC Housing Authority property) to pair energy efficiency measures with solar, through the federal Weatherization Assistance Program. This demonstration project included the installation of energy efficiency and health and safety measures and a full roof replacement to make it solar-ready. DOEE plans to complete a solar installation at Garfield Terrace in FY18.
    DOEE intends to replicate this model, and is currently working with the U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE) to obtain the necessary approvals for solar PV systems to be considered an energy efficiency measure under the Weatherization Assistance Program.
  • DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU)
    In April, 2017, DOEE executed a new multiyear, performance contract with DCSEU, funded with Sustainable Energy Trust Funds, to design and deliver energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and initiatives on behalf of the District. DCSEU planned to install at least 1 MW of solar during FY2017 across the commercial, government, and institutional sectors. DCSEU will report its achievements related to the capacity of solar installed at the end of October 2017.

Inter-agency Partnerships

The Department is developing the following strategic partnerships to increase the rate of solar installation on public land and buildings throughout the District:

  • Department of Employment Services
    DOEE and the Department of Employment Services (DOES) have partnered to develop Solar Works DC, a low-income solar installation and job training program. GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic was awarded a grant in May 2017 to implement the program in year one. In addition to preparing District residents to enter careers in solar and related industries, Solar Works DC will reduce energy costs for qualified low-income District homeowners by installing solar systems on their homes. This pipeline program operates year-round, with three cohorts per year (summer, fall and spring); it will provide trainees with valuable hands-on experience and the opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications. Over the course of three years, the program will train more than 200 District residents and will install solar systems on up to 300 income-qualified homes.
    The annual funding for the program is $950,000 and is provided through the Renewable Energy Development Fund, with additional funding provided by DOES to facilitate wraparound services to all trainees. This includes an array of support services and soft-skills training to enhance their training experience and professional development.
  • Department of General Services
    DOEE is partnering with the Department of General Services (DGS) on a 1 MW community solar installation to serve low-income households, and a pilot project to test different energy storage solutions and to procure and install solar, coupled with energy storage.
  • DC Public Library
    DOEE is partnering with DC Public Library for the procurement and installation of a 50 kW solar system, coupled with an energy storage system, at a newly constructed DC Public Library.
  • Department of Housing and Community Development
    DOEE is partnering with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to deliver technical assistance to affordable housing developers seeking gap-financing. This technical assistance, provided by the DC Sustainable Energy Utility, will help these developers identify different ways for financing and structuring solar development, and will provide them with tools to assess solar proposals that best suit their projects. This technical assistance is being offered to recent Housing Production Trust Fund recipients.
  • DC Housing Authority
    In addition to the Low-Income Energy Efficiency and Solar-Ready Roof Demonstration project at Garfield Terrace, DOEE is also working with the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) to solarize its housing properties. In 2017, DOEE provided funding to The Community Foundation to assess solar and battery storage potential property currently under redevelopment with DCHA. The project is currently in the pre-development phase. In 2017, DOEE awarded a $5 million dollar grant to DCHA to support roof repair, replacement, solar installation and battery storage installation at DCHA’s housing properties. This work will continue in 2018.
  • ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­University of the District of Columbia
    In 2017, DOEE worked with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) to identify rooftops for solar installation and provide technical assistance. DOEE will continue to partner with UDC in 2018 as the university implements solar projects.
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