Opportunity number
RFP 92012
Department of Energy (DOE)
Solar Energy Innovation Network
Due date
September 04, 2019
Project funding
Up to $125,000
Funding size
Below $1M

Solar Energy Innovation Network – Round 2 Solicitation – Topics: Solar in Rural Communities and Commercial-Scale Solar

RFP Summary provided by the agency

The Solar Energy Innovation Network (Innovation Network) is a collaborative research effort administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. An innovative program design brings together teams of stakeholders including utilities, state and local governments, nonprofits, innovative companies, and electric system operators. With the support of technical experts from national laboratories and other research institutions, these teams work to test innovative applications of solar electricity and solar generation enabling technologies in their unique locations and contexts. The solutions developed by the teams are tested and validated in real-world contexts, making them ready for replication and scale.

Through coordinated and facilitated engagement, selected teams work together to identify local and regional impacts, formulate and test innovations, and validate new models. This deepens participant research learning and strengthens outcomes. Over the course of the work effort, these teams receive analytical support and direction from NREL and partner research organizations, ensuring the academic rigor and viability of resulting solutions. The outcomes feed into the continual development and testing of new concepts, models, and designs.

The Innovation Network develops early-stage frameworks, models, and algorithms to address the long-term challenges of the changing electrical grid. This program aims to:
• Increase the relevance of solar research and analysis by using real-world data to address challenges of and propose solutions for increasing solar energy adoption;
• Perform in-depth analysis to generate broader insights applicable to other stakeholders; and
• Facilitate dissemination and replication of the insights and solutions.

Solar in Rural Communities
This topic includes proposals that support cooperative utilities, counties and other rural community stakeholders by analyzing and testing the potential for solar photovoltaics (PV) to improve energy affordability and resilience in rural contexts. The topic includes solar in combination with other technologies, such as storage, and in microgrids.
Encouraged Subtopics
• Deploying solar to increase electricity reliability and resilience
• Solutions to challenges in data collection, data management, or interoperability for solar projects for cooperative utilities or other rural stakeholders
• Innovative cooperative utility business models and operations to manage increasing solar deployment
• Novel approaches to planning and siting of solar
• Innovative dual land-use applications
• Solar solutions to challenges in the energy-water-food nexus
• Availability of solar for low and middle-income stakeholders
• Novel financing or ownership solutions for solar for counties or rural utilities
• Opportunities to partner with rural stakeholders in solar supply chain development or project decommissioning
• Standards, regulations, or policies related to solar in the rural utility context
• Community solar projects in the rural context.

Commercial-Scale Solar
This market segment, which includes commercial buildings (e.g., offices, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, retail stores, schools, or higher-education facilities), and multifamily residential buildings, has been the most challenging for the solar industry. Proposals in this topic will address market barriers and how to reduce the costs of solar energy for this segment. The topic includes solar in combination with other technologies, such as storage, and in microgrids.
Encouraged Subtopics
• Multi-project aggregation approaches that overcome key adoption barriers in this segment
• Novel approaches to decreasing transaction costs, to include standardized contracting, interconnection processes, or power purchase agreements
• Multifamily and commercial projects that benefit low and middle-income communities
• Innovative pathways to managing owner/tenant split incentive, tenant turnover, or metering and billing issues
• Techno-economic analysis of solar and other DERs for multifamily and commercial-scale customers in support of novel planning or siting approaches.

What is the mission and focus of the program: research, social, economic or others?

Research and Development

Example project(s) summaries from past RFPs:

Lead Organization: City of Orlando

Team Members: City of Orlando, Orlando Utility Commission, UCF Florida Solar Energy Center, Greenlink

Project Description: The City of Orlando aims to deploy solar and solar-plus-storage to support energy resiliency, environmental quality, and the continued affordability of the electricity supply. The team’s efforts include identifying the total solar potential available city-wide and conducting more detailed analysis for municipal facilities and distribution grid modeling. A pilot project to demonstrate innovative siting solutions is also being planned. The team is producing insights on municipal-level solar policies and building guidelines to share with other municipalities.

States Represented: Florida


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