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Round 2 of the Solar Energy Innovation Network

Teams in the second round of the Solar Energy Innovation Network will receive support to focus on solar in rural communities or commercial-scale solar.

Proposals to join Round 2 are no longer being accepted.

How the Innovation Network Can Help Your Organization

The Solar Energy Innovation Network is designed to support teams as they derive, test, and adopt innovative applications of solar photovoltaics (PV). Teams selected to participate in the Innovation Network receive:

  • Direct funding to engage stakeholders and test solutions
  • Analytical support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, and other partner research organizations to enable informed decision making
  • Facilitation support, both with stakeholders in their community and with other Innovation Network teams in working sessions to collaborate, learn from each other, and stress-test emerging solutions.

As a collaborative research effort led by NREL and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office, the Innovation Network provides access to the full technical expertise of DOE's national laboratories. The Rocky Mountain Institute, along with NREL, brings facilitation and coaching expertise to the program.

One Team's Experience in Round 1

A team led by PJM Interconnection and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) aimed to investigate how solar and storage might provide resilience benefits to the grid. The Innovation Network provided a platform for taking concrete steps to move the market forward.

The team led a series of workshops to understand the needs and priorities of relevant stakeholders (e.g., states and regulators), share initial results, and map out a path for accessing resilience benefits of solar and storage. Those workshops were paired with a deep-dive analysis of resilience valuation by Converge Strategies and NREL-led modeling and analysis of the feasibility of solar and storage for black start and system restoration. NARUC also studied what role state policy could play in accessing the resilience benefits of solar and other DERs.

In working sessions at NREL, the team made valuable connections with other teams working on the locational value of solar and with cities seeking to integrate resilience into their local energy plans. Read more about Round 1 Teams »

Topics for Round 2

Teams in Round 2 will focus on one of two major topics and will be grouped into cohorts with other teams working on the same topic. By organizing selected teams into two cohorts, the Innovation Network enables stakeholders facing similar challenges to share lessons learned, collaborate, and iterate together to accelerate the pace of innovation.

Solar in Rural Communities

This topic includes proposals that support cooperative utilities, counties, and other rural community stakeholders by analyzing and testing the potential for solar PV to improve energy affordability and resilience in rural contexts. The topic includes solar in combination with other technologies, such as storage, and in microgrids.

Commercial-Scale Solar

This market segment, which includes commercial buildings (e.g., offices, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, retail stores, schools, or higher-education facilities), and multifamily residential buildings, has been the most challenging for the solar industry. Proposals in this topic will address market barriers and how to reduce the costs of solar energy for this segment. The topic includes solar in combination with other technologies, such as storage, and in microgrids.

What Makes a Good Team?

Successful teams in the Innovation Network are usually led by an entity that has both the resources and authority to implement a solution, supported by several other key stakeholders in the relevant community. Past teams have consisted of utilities and the cities they serve, major cities and their state energy offices, local governments and leading non-profits, or Independent System Operators and energy companies, among others.

What Makes a Good Project?

Strong Innovation Network projects will seek to implement and study the results of solutions for solar applications that have been previously discussed and considered, but not yet attempted at scale or in a particular context. Projects should pursue applications that will ultimately be replicable in other localities or contexts.