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Project Sunlight – Key Insights on Developing and Financing Low-Income Solar Projects and DER

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ICAST was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to implement a national initiative to overcome the hurdles of deploying solar energy for low-income populations living in multifamily affordable housing (MFAH). Working closely with stakeholders representing utilities, MFAH owners, and investors, ICAST is completing its first 18-month phase of this three-year project. Critical deliverables for Phase I included feasibility studies for low-income community solar projects in differing utility and third-party markets. ICAST focused on markets that do not have high State subsidies and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to build an approach that can scale nationally, in locations without access to such subsidies.

ICAST’s feasibility studies produced many key insights on the current barriers and potential solutions to developing and financing low-income solar projects and other distributed energy resources (DER), including:

  • How Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFI) and Green Banks can deploy new finance instruments for low-income solar programs.
  • How to include battery storage to take advantage of various utility tariff structures.
  • How Time-of-Use (TOU) and other on- and off-peak tariffs impact the financing of low-income solar projects.
  • How Community Solar Tariffs are used by utility administered solar programs to provide bills savings to low-to-moderate income customers.

Over the next several months, ICAST will present papers and case studies on these and many other topics relevant to the efforts of the national stakeholders working to increase access to low-income populations for solar and DER programs. This work will be published on ICAST’s website, with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership, and with the Smart Electric Power Alliance.

“ICAST is grateful to the support we have received from the DOE, our Solar Advisory Group, and the numerous stakeholders who have contributed to the success of this project to date,” Ravi Malhotra ICAST’s President and Founder stated. “We look forward to the next phase of this pioneering project and sharing what we have learned and developed with others.”


ICAST (www.icastusa.org) – Founded in 2002, ICAST is a social enterprise that provides economic, environmental, and social benefits to under-served communities in a manner that builds local capacity. Through its market-based solutions, ICAST promotes a triple-bottom-line approach to community development.

About the Solar Energy Technologies Office

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at energy.gov/solar-office.

Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Solar Energy Technologies Office Award Number DE-EE0008568.

Disclaimer: This posting was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.

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