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.
Elevating Equity in Residential Solar Deployment
This cohort will focus on developing solutions that expand equity in residential, behind-the-meter solar deployment. Many of these teams aim to boost solar outreach and education within underserved communities. Teams are considering community workshops, solar ambassadors, and workforce development programs—among many ideas—to highlight how the different benefits of solar energy can match the unique needs of each community.
Elevating Equity in Commercial-Scale Solar
This cohort will focus on expanding equity in solar deployment at the commercial scale, such as at offices, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, retail stores, schools, nonprofits, and higher-education facilities. This applies only to commercial-scale solar that is sited within underserved communities. Many of these teams seek to improve the solar financing options available to small businesses and nonprofits while expanding solar workforce development opportunities in underserved communities.
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
Lead Organization: Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute
Location: Austin and Carrizo Springs, Texas
This team is identifying opportunities to more equitably deploy solar to properties owned or rented by families in underserved communities by leveraging utilities’ low-income energy efficiency programs and Weatherization Assistance Program funding. This team is collaborating to identify, refine, demonstrate, and evaluate strategies to widen access to residential rooftop solar among underserved communities and develop guidelines and implementation approaches to apply identified pathways.
Multistakeholder Team Members: AEP Texas, Austin Energy, Colony Park Community Development Corp., Colony Park Neighborhood Association, Community Services Agency of South Texas, Frontier Energy, Houston Advanced Research Center, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Austin, Texas Solar Energy Society, and Travis County