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March 2, 2022
Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department is one of just eight teams across the country selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to receive project support for an initiative to increase solar adoption in commercial buildings on the city’s Westside. NREL made the announcement last week as part of the third round of its program known as the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN) with the goal of discovering transformative ways to enable the equitable adoption of solar in underserved communities.
In close partnership with the non-profit Utah Clean Energy, Salt Lake City will work with stakeholders to increase awareness of existing incentive programs for solar and battery storage, and develop new recommendations for financing mechanisms and incentive programs to increase solar adoption in areas of the city that have faced economic hardships and energy injustice.
“Investing in clean energy is key to addressing our climate, public health, and economic resiliency over the coming years,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “We need to make sure more members of our community have access to it and this project will go a long way toward that goal.”
The Salt Lake City SEIN project brings together technical experts with community partners and Westside businesses to identify challenges, opportunities, and next steps to increase the amount of solar on rooftops across the Westside’s businesses, warehouses, offices, retail stores, and other commercial properties.
The Salt Lake City team comprises Utah Clean Energy, the Suazo Business Center, Rocky Mountain Power, the Utah Office of Energy Development, Centro Civico Mexicano, the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs, and McKinstry.
“We selected teams that are experimenting with creative, promising ideas to use solar power in underserved communities across the United States,” said Eric Lockhart, who leads the Innovation Network at NREL. “The work of these teams will provide a blueprint for other communities pursuing novel ways of adopting and benefiting from solar energy.”
The Salt Lake City team’s participation in the Solar Energy Innovation Network will include financial, analytical, and facilitation support as it works to anticipate and address new challenges and opportunities stemming from equitable solar energy adoption and other distributed energy technologies.
Specifically, this project will make recommendations on how to refine Rocky Mountain Power’s battery incentive program with an emphasis on underserved and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) commercial customers. It will also develop recommendations for new financing mechanisms and/or a state-wide clean energy fund that expands underserved communities’ access to the benefits of solar energy.
“Rooftop solar has grown significantly in Utah and yet remains out of reach for too many Utahns, particularly in underserved communities that have been passed over by programs designed to make solar more accessible and affordable,” said Kate Bowman, Renewable Energy Program Manager with Utah Clean Energy. “Rooftop solar can provide a needed reprieve from monthly utility burdens, and essential backup power during grid outages. Participation in this network will help us explore how to overcome the barriers to solar adoption in the communities that stand to benefit the most.”
The Solar Energy Innovation Network is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
See NREL’s news story here: https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2022/round-three-announcement-solar-energy-innovation-network.html