The Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar (The Sunny Awards) is a $100,000 prize competition that will recognize community solar projects and programs that employ or develop best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities.
Community solar is any solar project or purchasing program in which the benefits of a solar project flow to multiple customers such as individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups, within a certain geographic area. Community solar projects and programs can vary significantly in their structure, implementation, and benefits they provide. The best practices of the projects and programs recognized by the Sunny Awards will provide a blueprint for community solar developers, state energy offices, utilities, and others to help achieve the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) target to power the equivalent of five million households with community solar by 2025, generating $1 billion in electricity bill savings.
Announced on July 20, 2022, by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), the Sunnys offer up to five $10,000 Sunny Awards Grand Prizes to the top teams and up to 50 additional $1,000 Sunny Finalist Awards to competitors that find effective ways to equitably deliver the specific, meaningful benefits of community solar identified by NCSP.
To apply, community solar projects and programs must be able to prove that they are providing meaningful benefits in at least one of the following primary Meaningful Benefit categories:
- Greater Households Savings
- Low- to moderate-income (LMI) Household Access
- Resilience and Grid Benefits
- Community Ownership
- Equitable Workforce Development
Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition will be given to the top three competitors in each of the primary Meaningful Benefit categories above, as well as in two innovation categories:
- Innovation Category: Community Engagement
- Innovation Category: Impact
Teams will nominate either a community solar project (individual community solar installations) or program (state, district, territory, or utility-run initiatives that enable, incentivize, or otherwise support the development of multiple community solar projects within a specific jurisdiction) by submitting a narrative application and a set of appropriate, complete, and verifiable supporting evidence.
Interested participants can sign up and read the official rules on the HeroX platform.
The Sunny Awards are a competition with three levels of recognition. Reviewers, including DOE staff and external experts, will evaluate nominations and give the following recognition and awards to top submissions.
Level 1: Semifinalist Recognition
Any competitor that submits appropriate, complete, and verifiable evidence that their project or program provides benefits that meet the baseline criteria for at least one award category will be recognized on the NCSP webpage and in a public announcement. This subset of competitors will advance in the prize challenge.
Level 2: Sunny Finalist Awards
Up to 50 Semifinalist Recognition competitors will be selected as Sunny Finalist Awards winners by DOE reviewers and will receive a cash prize of $1,000. These competitors will advance in the prize challenge.
Level 3: Sunny Grand Prize Awards
A panel of external reviewers, using a pre-determined and publicly available set of scoring guidance, will select winners for two types of Grand Prize awards:
Sunny Grand Prize Award Winners:
- All Finalists that meet eligibility requirements across 2 or more meaningful benefit award categories will compete for a Sunny Grand Prize Award for Equitable Community Solar.
- Up to five projects or programs that demonstrate significant achievement in delivering meaningful benefits across multiple categories will be selected as Sunny Grand Prize Award winners and will be eligible to receive $10,000 in prize money.
Meaningful Benefit Category Special Recognition:
- DOE will also present non-monetary awards to recognize up to three programs or projects in each of the meaningful benefits categories, including the two innovation categories.
Winners of both the Sunny Grand Prize Awards and Meaningful Benefit Special Recognition Awards will be publicly announced by DOE in January 2023 at the NCSP Annual Summit and will be invited to participate in a series of DOE-hosted webinars and events on community solar best practices. Winners’ best practices will also be used to develop a collection of case studies to encourage greater adoption of these practices.