Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), in partnership with ROCSPOT, a Rochester, New York-based community organization, issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop at least 16MW of solar generation to provide access to this zero-emission source of clean energy.

The project is expected to be among the nation’s first set of community-scale solar installations located in the community of its end users, versus a centralized location typically used for utilityscale solar infrastructure. Moreover, the projects have been designed to reduce cost and broaden solar access to include low- and moderate-income households. The City of Rochester will consider purchasing as much as 7 MW of generation from the installations once they are complete, which is expected in March 2018. RMI estimates they could directly generate between 19-24 construction jobs and $1.8-2.7 million in local income.

ROCSPOT, with the backing of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), lends its support to pre-development activities, the RFP process and ongoing project operations on behalf of the Rochester community as part of its mission to offer solar energy services to all Rochester residents by 2025.

Community solar “offers a unique opportunity to customers of all socioeconomic backgrounds to participate in our renewable energy transition, in a way that stabilizes neighborhoods, engages communities in energy education, and demonstrates that everyone can and should have reasonably priced access to renewables," Dr. Susan Spencer, founder and president of ROCSPOT, said.

“Shared, community-scale solar projects offer underserved communities like Rochester access to customizable, clean, renewable energy generation at competitive rates,” Jules Kortenhorst, RMI’s chief executive officer, said. “Through our work with ROCSPOT and other local partners, we believe Rochester can serve as a strong national test case for both the merits of this innovative technology and its ability to serve a range of commercial, industrial, and residential market segments–including low- and moderate-income energy users. As New York State continues to transform the way energy is produced and delivered to its citizens, we are pleased to partner with the City of Rochester in the development of this promising new clean energy technology.”

Community solar is a largely untapped market segment that lies between large, utility-scale solar infrastructure and individual, residential-sited installations. In all, the shared solar segment within community-scale solar could represent a greater than 15-gigawatt market by 2020– equivalent to the output of about 30 coal plants–and may be valued at as much as $30-$40 billion. This segment is currently enabled by legislation in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Continued rapid growth of the community solar market will depend on solar developers working with their financial partners to develop innovative financing solutions that will allow this market to scale.

With today’s release, commitments of intent to participate in the RFP will be due by August 12, with questions and clarifications due by August 22. Qualified financial organizations will be introduced to RFP bidders on August 15. Final bids are due by Sept. 16, 2016.