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Round 3 of the Solar Energy Innovation Network

NREL seeks teams to apply for the Solar Energy Innovation Network’s (SEIN’s) third round by June 15, 2021.

Selected teams will receive financial and analytical support to overcome barriers to equitable adoption of solar in underserved communities.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation, which has seen dramatic market growth over the past decade, can help address climate change and provide benefits such as electricity bill reduction, job creation, and local resiliency for households, organizations, and businesses. However, solar deployment to date has skewed toward some communities and demographics.

For example, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that in 2019 the median income of households that adopt solar is significantly higher than that of the average U.S. household. Research published in Nature Sustainability found that black- and Hispanic-majority census tracts have installed significantly less rooftop PV than no-majority and white-majority tracts.

To successfully and equitably address climate change, it is critical that residents, organizations, and businesses in underserved communities have the opportunity to leverage the benefits that solar energy can provide to meet their needs.

Round 3 of the Innovation Network is focused on overcoming barriers to equitable solar PV adoption in underserved communities. To drive the innovation necessary to meet this challenge, SEIN Round 3 is seeking multistakeholder teams focused on one of two topics:

  • Topic A: Elevating equity in residential solar deployment
    This topic is focused on developing solutions that expand equity in residential, behind-the-meter solar deployment.
  • Topic B: Elevating equity in commercial-scale solar deployment
    This topic is focused on expanding equity in solar deployment at the commercial-scale, such as at offices, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, retail stores, schools, nonprofits, or higher-education facilities. This topic applies only to commercial-scale solar that is sited within underserved communities.

Please note that the following project approaches or focus areas are not eligible for this round:

  • Projects focused on community solar or community-shared solar (Please see the National Community Solar Partnership for community solar opportunities.)
  • Projects focused on multifamily affordable housing
  • Corporate procurement of off-site utility-scale solar or virtual aggregations
  • Equipment purchases.

To apply to Round 3, consider the steps described below, assemble a team of stakeholders, and then submit a concept paper explaining your idea by June 15, 2021. If your team is selected for this 15-month project, you’ll receive technical assistance and facilitation support from experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and its partners, frequent opportunities to collaborate with other teams working on similar issues, and up to $200,000 to pilot your ideas.

Review the Request for Proposals  

First, carefully read and review the request for proposals (RFP) for Round 3 SEIN teams. The RFP includes detailed information on:

  • The project and program
  • SEIN Round 3 evaluation criteria
  • NREL’s evaluation process
    • Stage 1: All teams submit concept papers
    • Stage 2: Selected teams submit a full technical proposal
  • Concept paper content requirements
    • Project objective
    • Critical barriers to equitable adoption
    • Team lead organization
    • Community role
    • Multistakeholder team
    • Location represented.

Assemble a Multistakeholder Team

Each team in the Innovation Network should bring together a range of stakeholders to ensure that all challenges and perspectives are considered and to develop solutions that will be implemented and tested in a real-world setting. SEIN teams can include, but are not limited to, member-led or community-based organizations, utilities, system operators, state and local governments, nonprofits, and companies. 

Strong proposals will directly involve underserved community members, organizations, or businesses in project design and execution in a leadership role. See the RFP for additional details on how proposals will be evaluated.

Ask Questions

As your team begins to develop a concept paper, you may have questions. Please send your questions to the NREL team at by June 1, 2021 (no later than 4 p.m. MDT).

Watch the Informational Webinar

NREL hosted an informational webinar about the Round 3 RFP on May 20, 2021. Watch the recording of the webinar to get an overview of the Innovation Network program, review the application process, and learn about best practices for your concept paper.

Submit a Concept Paper

Finally, submit a concept paper outlining the composition of your team, the challenges you plan to tackle, and the solutions you hope to develop. Be sure to read the directions in the RFP carefully to ensure your concept paper provides all requested information. Concept papers must be submitted by June 15, 2021 (no later than 4 p.m. MDT).

Program organizers at NREL will consider all concept papers and select the most promising teams to submit a full technical proposal.

Submit Concept Paper

To submit a concept paper, email it to by June 15, 2021, no later than 4 p.m. MDT.


If you have any questions, please contact