Community Solar Resources

On this page you will find community solar resources for:

  • Site Owners
  • Local Governments
  • Consumers
  • And More

Community Solar Resources for Site Owners 

Requests for Proposal 

The process of pre-development for solar projects most often leads to a solicitation of products or services from potential solar developers. Issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) allows site owners to outline the photovoltaic requirements, contract terms and bidding process based on the outcome of pre-development research. The pre-development process should inform the solicitation by including the goals and desired outcomes for solar deployment based on initial research and data gathering during the pre-development stage. The responses to the RFP will commonly include the characteristics and solar potential of the site, the ownership and business structure and the contract terms for design and build or energy purchase.  

The following resources are a good place to start for site owners to begin developing their RFPs and procurement processes. While these resources specifically focus on public agencies, the information, resources and guidance on solar procurement are helpful for any medium to large solar project entering the procurement process:

Solar Requests for Proposals for State, Local & Tribal Governments
National renewable Energy Laboratory - Best practices for developing RFPs for state, local and tribal governments; including guidance on the procurement process, RFP development and data collection requirements.

Steps to a Successful RFP
The Solar Foundation - Focuses on solar procurement for public agencies and provides details on RFP development, stakeholder engagement, and site assessment and provider selection. Also include case studies and considerations for designing ownership and business structures.

Solar Power Purchase Agreements: a Toolkit for Local Governments
Interstate Renewable Energy Council - A Comprehensive, step-by-step guide for designing and procuring Power Purchase Agreements, including 10 case studies, templates and detailed description of required documentation.

SEIA Guide to Land Leases for Solar
Solar Energy Industries Association - A guide for landowners that includes considerations and key questions to ask if they are approached by solar developers.                             

Site Assessments for Solar

Not every property is suitable for onsite solar. The roof structure or land parcel needs to be assessed to understand how to place solar panels for optimal performance. Site owners need to consider current and projected energy use to understand how various ownership structures and system designs will meet their needs. Site owners need to understand the financial structures of solar business models and how the characteristics of the site and site owner organization impacts the long term outcomes of solar power generation.

These resources provide some guidance on these consideration and will help site owners better understand how solar will work for them.

Landowner Considerations for Solar Land Leases
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority - This report provides a high-level checklist of considerations for solar deployment, including siting, land value, tax considerations and local zoning and ordinance issues. While the focus is on converting agricultural land to solar plant deployment, the considerations are relevant for any site owner.

On-Site Commercial Solar PV Decision Guide
U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance - This guide was developed to help building owners with the design and installation of solar photovoltaics (PV) on commercial buildings. This comprehensive guide includes resources on financing a PV system, procurement processes, project execution, operations and maintenance and assessing the benefits of solar for site owners.

Community Solar Business Case Tool
Cook County Community Solar Project - Spreadsheet that allows users to calculate the costs and benefits of a community solar project for developers and subscribers.        

Opportunity Assessment 
Cook County Community Solar Project - Quantifies shared solar market potential by identifying suitable sites for community solar installations and potential solar capacity for those sites. Total community solar capacity in Cook County is over 9,000 megawatts, enough to power the annual energy consumption of more than 1.2 million single-family homes.       

Development Timeline

Guide to Pre-Development - This short guide provides an overview of the key considerations for site owners during the site selection and pre-development stages.

Community Solar Resources for Local Governments

Local governments have several roles in relation to community solar. As land and building owners they are like any other site owner. In addition they also need to take into account the government’s roles of planning and development and building and zoning. These resources provide some guidance on making your community solar-ready through building and zoning codes, training, and economic development.

The Solar Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy – SolSmart is a national designation program recognizing communities that make it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar.

Grow Solar’s Solar Toolkit 
Grow Solar – Resources for municipal and electric utility leaders in the implementation of solar program best practices. The toolkit is Illinois specific and allows access to resources to navigate permitting, planning and zoning.

Community Solar Toolkit
Cook County Community Solar Project - Provides community solar information and comprehensive set of resources, including many of the resources below.

Community Solar Resources for Consumers

Residential Consumer Guide to Community Solar
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) - Entering into a community solar agreement is a significant decision, similar to signing up for a cell phone, and consumers should understand the basics of solar energy, where community solar is available, key terms in agreements, and the right questions to ask solar professionals.

Consumer Protection for Community Solar: A Guide for States
Clean Energy States Alliance  - A guide for state regulators that discusses consumer protection issues that may arise in community solar projects for residential consumers, and the role states can play in ensuring appropriate consumer protections.            

Residential Consumer Guide to Community Solar
Solar Energy Industries Association; Coalition for Community Solar Access - A guide for consumers that provides information on community solar and the key issues to consider when evaluating whether to enter into a community solar agreement.   

Solar in the Community
Elevate Energy, Environmental Defense Fund and Citizen Utility Board - Solar in the Community is a match-making site for Community Solar Developers, Communities, and Subscribers. When the site goes live in April 2018, users will be able to browse Illinois' new community solar projects, connect with developers to find out how to subscribe, and even allow communities to propose their own projects to attract residents and developers.

More Community Solar Resources

Community solar: What is it?
EnergySage -   A website that defines community solar and explains the various components and benefits.           

Solar Energy Resource Center
Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy - Provides a comprehensive list of resources that can be filtered by topic area.            

Shared Renewable Energy for Low- to Moderate-Income Consumers: Policy Guidelines and Model Provisions
Interstate Renewable Energy Council - Includes an overview of key barriers to low- to moderate-income customer participation in shared renewable energy programs and provides key policy guidelines and program design recommendations.  

Community Solar Local Benefits Analysis
Cook County Community Solar Project - Simulates costs and benefits at a hypothetical site to derive total local net benefits, including job creation, economic activity and environmental impacts of increased deployment of community solar within Cook County.          

Low-Income Solar Policy Guide
Center for Social Inclusion; Grid Alternatives; Vote Solar - Provides examples of different models and financing mechanisms to help expand solar access to LMI customers.       

Case Studies & Case Study Overview
Cook County Community Solar Project - Overview details evaluation process for 15 potential community solar sites; case studies show viability of community solar in wide range of circumstances.