Department of Energy Selects NRECA for Research to Enhance Solar Energy Affordability and Accessibility

ARLINGTON, Va. – The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office has selected the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) for a $1 million research awardto make solar energy more affordable for communities with fewer financial resources and extend the benefits of solar development to low- and moderate-income consumers.

The CARES project will develop models, best practices, and other resources for electric cooperatives, solar developers and community and regional financial institutions. The project partners will provide $300,000 in funding.

The “Cooperatives Achieving Rural Equity in Solar” (CARES) project includes two financial institution partners, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation and CoBank, to develop solutions that take advantage of financial assistance programs, guarantees and opportunity zone designations (where and when applicable) to make solar energy development more affordable.

NRECA is conducting this project in collaboration with GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to making renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.

“The cost of solar deployment, while declining, can still be a barrier for electric cooperatives and their members who want to develop community solar projects. The CARES project will help cooperatives make solar more accessible and bring new economic benefits to their communities,” said Jim Matheson, chief executive officer at NRECA.

The project will convene a diverse group of stakeholders, including rural electric cooperatives, community and regional financial institutions, non-profit organizations, foundations, solar developers, economic development agencies, and electric co-op consumer-members.

NRECA was selected as a part of the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program, an effort to invest in new projects that will lower solar electricity costs, while working to boost solar manufacturing, reduce red tape, and make solar systems more resilient to cyberattack. NRECA is one of several soft cost projects that will work to reduce the costs associated with the non-hardware components of a solar system. This includes direct costs such as siting and permitting, as well as financing and compliance with local codes, rules and regulations.

NRECA will build on its successful record of DOE-funded research, which includes the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration project. This project helped reduce the soft costs, barriers to entry and business risks of implementing co-op utility photovoltaic solar (PV).

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landmass. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.