Designing and testing an affordable community-scale, collaborative, and civic solar power production model in the United States

Supporting the Rocky Mountain Institute's initiative for the creation of two community-scale solar projects in the state of New York

New York
2016 to 2018


Project background

The community-scale solar market is in its early stages in the U.S., and the market has not yet developed a business model that fully leverages its many potential benefits. RMI is collaborating with industry, communities, nonprofits, and the public sector to make community solar both available and affordable across the U.S.

Its strategy is based on standardizing systems and grouping communities to reduce costs, an innovative approach to location and connection, and creating flexible enrollment plans available to all households.

Making projects happen on the ground is a key step in building confidence among communities and vendors in this new market.

Project roll-out

With the support of the Rexel Foundation, RMI launched two community solar projects in the state of New York. Their success depended on two key points:

  • A standardized 0.5-2 MW system for 20MW+ portfolios leading to economies of scale comparable to traditional utility-scale systems.
  • Community-supported development leading to economies of scale and soft cost reduction.

Project goals

RMI’s aim, based on the model validated by these pilot projects, is to:

  • Provide affordable access to solar energy for low income communities across the U.S.
  • Structure an approach to aggregate community off-takers and help them play a leading role in project development (e.g. permitting, grid access).
  • Reduce energy-related costs.
  • Protect the environment and adapt to climate change.

Find out more about the Rocky Mountain Institute

The Rocky Mountain Institute works to drive the efficient and renewable use of resources. Since 1982, RMI has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure future—for all, forever.

RMI engages businesses, communities, and institutions to cost-effectively shift from generating and using fossil fuels to meeting energy needs with energy efficiency and renewable energy. RMI convenes and collaborates with diverse, global partners to accelerate and scale solutions to the energy and climate crisis to improve human and environmental health, global energy security, and business economics.

RMI uses a whole-systems approach to unlock energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions that are technologically and economically viable today, focusing on the largest energy-using sectors of the global economy—electricity, buildings, transportation, and industry.

go to top