Assistance for Early Adopters

NREL is offering targeted technical and analytical assistance to help communities and organizations across the country adopt and apply insights developed through the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN).

The Innovation Network brings together diverse teams of stakeholders to research solutions to real-world challenges associated with solar energy adoption. One of the objectives of the Innovation Network is to enable other stakeholders facing similar challenges to employ the solutions generated through the program. Adapting solutions requires its own innovation, so SEIN staff at NREL are offering limited technical assistance to selected requestors on a rolling basis.

What Assistance Is Provided?

The provided technical assistance is designed to be compact in terms of duration and scope. Topics of focus are detailed below, and new topics will be announced periodically. Further details and commonly asked questions can be found in a SEIN blog post from December 2022. To learn when new topics are announced, subscribe to the SEIN mailing list.

The scope and type of assistance provided will be determined based on the needs of the requestor and nature of the relevant innovation and required adaptation but will not include direct financial support. Examples of assistance may include consultations with subject matter experts, analysis and contextualization of site-specific data, and document review, depending on the topic and questions. Assistance is intended to inform decisions or actions undertaken by the requestor and is provided at no cost to the requestor. Assistance will include only limited modeling where appropriate.

Who Is Eligible?

Assistance in applying lessons learned from the Innovation Network is open to all U.S.-based stakeholders, including but not limited to government entities, regulatory authorities, utilities, project developers, and community organizations. Individual organizations and teams of stakeholders are eligible for support.

Topic Areas

Topic areas accepting requests for assistance are described below. Please review the topic descriptions and related work prior to requesting replication assistance.

The Breaking Barriers team, led by Groundswell, worked with Spelman College and Morehouse College to plan and design resilience centers that will serve the campuses and surrounding community. In addition to the colleges, the nearby energy-burdened neighborhoods in West Atlanta were engaged with the help of Partnership for Southern Equity to determine the optimal sites and capabilities of resilience centers. Requestors for assistance would explore similar opportunities for solar-powered resilience centers to support the needs and goals of both campuses and underserved communities.

Complete a request form to receive technical assistance on this topic.

What Types of Assistance Can Be Offered on This Topic?

  • Building familiarity with the system design options and resilience capabilities of solar PV and energy storage systems
  • Examples of effective and successful community engagement as demonstrated by Partnership for Southern Equity in the Breaking Barriers project context
  • Guidance for working with local electric utilities to confirm the viability of resilient energy project configurations

What Types of Questions Will This Assistance Inform?

  • What resilience benefits can a solar + storage system provide?
  • How can we find out the types of resilience benefits that are most important to the community?
  • How can the resilience benefits of a solar + storage project be distributed to all intended parties and communities?
  • In what order do decisions on system siting and design need to be made?
  • How can a solar + storage system provide cost saving benefits during “blue sky” times when the grid is operational?

Related Work and Examples

Breaking Barriers Project Report

  • Groundswell, the organization leading the project, composed this comprehensive project summary report, which describes the key contributions of the multiple stakeholder organizations on the project team.
  • It walks through the steps needed to determine the project's scope and sites as well as follow-on steps for efficient completion of the project.

Solar Energy Innovation Network: Breaking Barriers Resilient Energy System Analysis

  • This document details the analytical assistance that led to project team decisions on resilience centers in Atlanta.
  • It includes the economics and resilience capabilities of different sizes of battery storage systems when paired with a solar electricity generation system.
  • It also describes the electrical interconnection options available to the college campuses, their benefits, and approximate costs.

A team led by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources designed a new agreement between renewable energy developers and utilities to manage interconnection costs and streamline interconnection timelines. This operating envelope agreement (OEA) defines the operational parameters for a renewable energy system, with the goal of reducing risk and cost to all parties to reduce solar and storage hosting capacity strain. Utilities, utility commissions, and any partners seeking to use storage to manage costs of solar integration are encouraged to request assistance on this topic.

Complete a request form to receive technical assistance on this topic.

What Types of Assistance Can Be Offered on This Topic?

For developers:

  • Identifying the operational parameters for an OEA that mitigates violations in a specific case
  • Assessing how to ensure that solar developers that opt for an OEA can participate in existing markets and tap relevant value streams from the solar and storage, within different utility and regulatory contexts

For utilities and regulators:

  • Exploring the applicability of the OEA concept within a specific utility or regulatory context
  • Assisting with the establishment of the analysis or contract negotiation process needed to implement OEAs in a specific context
  • Updating interconnection protocols or interconnection contracts guidance to incorporate the OEA concept, with the goal of enabling more distributed energy resource (DER) deployment or reduce deployment costs
  • Other assistance to explore or implement an OEA concept in a specific context

What Types of Questions Will This Assistance Inform?

For developers:

  • For a new solar project, how can storage be used to reduce interconnection costs and wait times?  
  • How can a solar + storage system maximize revenue in the context of an OEA?

For utilities and regulators:

  • How does an OEA interact with existing programs and incentives for DERs in the utility's jurisdiction?
  • What are optimal and acceptable parameters for DER operation on the grid?

Related Work and Examples

Conceptual Framework for Operating Envelope Agreements and Interconnection Cost Reduction

  • This report outlines the OEA contractual agreement between a project developer and a utility that increases certainty and lowers risk to both parties by articulating a mutually agreeable set of operating parameters for the developer's solar + storage system.
  • Also included are key decision points, incorporating OEAs into interconnection service agreements, and customization of OEAs for specific projects and utility jurisdictions.

Technoeconomic Analysis for OEAs and Interconnection Cost Reduction

  • This document details the analytical assistance that NREL and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory contributed to the project team's understanding of available costs and benefits for interconnecting a solar PV system to the grid.
  • It identifies potential grid violations induced as a result of interconnecting a PV system to a distribution circuit, identifies multiple methods for mitigating these potential grid violations, and compares the economics of each option.

Clean Energy States Alliance Webinar

In this recorded Clean Energy States Alliance webinar (with accompanying slides), the project team describes the OEA concept and supporting analysis.

A team led by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council worked to align emergency management processes and utility needs with community resilience objectives and determine how solar PV and battery storage systems could be best placed to support this alignment. In collaboration with local counties, the University of South Florida, and Converge Strategies, the Clear Sky Tampa Bay team developed a Decision Support Toolkit to help local governments and communities resolve questions on the siting of resilient energy systems. Local governments, communities, and other emergency management or resilience organizations could benefit from assistance on this topic.

Complete a request form to receive technical assistance on this topic.

What Types of Assistance Can Be Offered on This Topic?

  • Building familiarity with the toolkit's inputs and outputs, articulating the available benefits of solar + storage in your context, and leveraging relevant experiences from NREL's extensive portfolio of resilience projects
  • Guidance on taking the toolkit's outputs and performing the next steps toward solar + storage system deployment on the selected critical facilities

What Types of Questions Will This Assistance Inform?

  • Which critical facilities in the area are best suited to host solar PV + storage systems?
  • By making a critical facility more resilient through the addition of solar + storage, which Community Lifelines (as identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA) are also strengthened?
  • How can local goals for resilience be met by deploying solar + storage on critical facilities?
  • With a list of high-potential critical facilities for solar + storage addition, how should these be prioritized based on their role in supporting community resilience and FEMA Community Lifelines?

How To Request Assistance

Requests for assistance on these SEIN Round 2 topics are open. Assistance is provided on an ongoing basis—subject to applicability—at no cost to requestors. The number of assistance opportunities is limited, so potential requestors are encouraged to submit requests as soon as possible. Requests for assistance are accepted on a rolling basis. In requesting assistance, stakeholders must demonstrate how the assistance will:

  • Adapt or apply the work performed by a relevant SEIN project team
  • Specifically inform an action, decision, or decision-making process (such as deciding whether to pursue a solar + storage microgrid for resilience at a college campus)
  • Be productively applied to move a project, program, strategy, or decision forward.

To request assistance through the Innovation Network, complete a request form for a topic area (linked above) and submit the form to If the request meets the parameters of assistance outlined here, SEIN staff will schedule an initial scoping call with the primary contact person on the request form.


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