$320K in grants available for community solar projects – SooLeader

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NEWS RELEASE
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, GREAT LAKES AND ENERGY
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The Energy Unit of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is offering grants to help address communities’ roadblocks to clean energy access.

At least $320,000 in funding is expected to be available through the MI Solar Communities-MI Solar Access Program, with average individual grant awards from $80,000-$100,000.

The MI Solar Communities platform provides Michigan residents information on technical assistance and programs for obtaining solar within their community (which may be defined by location or as a group of people connected through their electric utility). Through community shared solar, subscribing members of a community receive electrical power and/or financial benefits. Subscribers receive credits on their electric bills for the portion of the energy generated by their allotted panels. These panels may be placed on residential or business roofs or located off-site.

Many people want the benefits of solar energy but for a variety of reasons cannot install solar panels where they live. They may rent, have an unsuitable roof, or experience other factors which limit their ability to benefit from renewable energy. At the same time, funding for renewable energy projects is supported by all ratepayers and taxpayers, so increasing access to the benefits of these projects is a matter of equity.

Michigan currently does not have enabling legislation for community solar, so community solar programs in Michigan are developed and managed through a local electric utility.

The MI Solar Access program contains three components:

  • A community solar model to benefit low- to moderate-income customers through solar energy, obtaining energy efficiency upgrades and saving on their electric bills.
  • Using a model called MI Solarize to support businesses, organizations, and interest groups in deploying solar energy for their own buildings.
  • An energy storage system that supports an existing renewable energy system.

MI Solar Access partners local electric utilities, state government, weatherization entities, and other organizations. It offers households a subscription to lease a set number of panels for a set number of years.

EGLE has published a request for proposals (RFP), online application, and sample grant agreement for the MI Solar Access grant program, open to local and tribal governments, electric utilities, small to midsize businesses, and nonprofit organizations in Michigan located in or serving either a municipal or cooperative electric utility territory in the state.

Program objectives include expanding access to solar regardless of households’ ability to install solar panels on their property, providing potential financial energy cost savings to subscribers, promoting environmental benefits to participants, and fostering equity and inclusivity of access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy.

The program also supports renewable energy goals in the MI Healthy Climate Plan to attain carbon-neutrality in Michigan by 2050 to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Applications will be accepted through March 31, 2025, or when funding is expended, whichever comes first. Grantees selected must provide at least a 50% match and must allocate 85%-100% of the total awarded grant funding to households with income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. Funds must be expended by Aug. 25, 2025.

EGLE’s Energy Unit participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Energy for Low-Income Community Accelerator (CELICA) and continues to work with partners to address low-income energy challenges and provide access to alternative clean energy.

Questions about the RFP may be submitted by email to Lisa Thomas, [email protected], by 5 p.m. Thursday, April 11, 2024. Written answers and any other changes or clarifications will be posted on the program webpage by April 18, 2024.

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