DOE to invest in initiatives to deploy solar energy to underserved communities

Published on May 06, 2021 by Dave Kovaleski

© Shutterstock

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it will invest $15.5 million in funding to help deploy solar energy in underserved communities.

The funding is for two DOE programs, SolSmart and the Solar Energy Innovation Network. First, $10 million in funding will be allocated for a SolSmart administrator for the next five years. The administrator will manage the program to encourage more equitable solar deployment and the adoption of emerging technologies, such as solar and storage.

SolSmart provides free technical assistance to cities, counties, and regional organizations looking to deploy solar energy. To date, SolSmart has helped more than 400 communities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With this new funding, it will expand to focus on rural and low- and moderate-income communities.

Also, DOE will provide $5.5 million in technical assistance through the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN)—a program that connects utilities, state and local governments, and other stakeholders to technical experts at DOE’s National Laboratories. The experts will help them develop solutions to regional challenges associated with solar energy adoption. This new funding will focus on solutions for solar deployment in underserved communities.

“Solar energy is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest paths to President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035—and now, it’s time to double down on our efforts to make those benefits available to communities in every pocket of the country,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said. “These new initiatives and funding will jumpstart a long-overdue conversation around how DOE can leverage solar energy’s explosive growth to create solutions and jobs that lift up Americans who have been left behind and create a future filled with JEDI.”

There are nearly 100 gigawatts DC (GW) of solar capacity installed across the country, with as much as 500 to 600 GW more to be installed over the next 10 years.

Also, the DOE issued two RFIs, an Equitable Access to Community-Based Solar Request for Information (RFI) and a workforce RFI. The latter gathers information on how best to frame future workforce funding that ensures new jobs offer good wages, benefits, and worker protections.