Solar ACCESS – Community Solar Project

Plant the Seeds of Solar, Harvest the Power of the Sun


Solar ACCESS: Appalachian Citizens’ Community Economy  Solar Shares 

Purchasing solar can be a huge challenge for the average family. Although most people understand the need for renewable solar power, it is out of reach for most of us – for now. Maybe you rent your home, live in an apartment, or don’t have the capital to invest in your own solar array. These barriers shouldn’t stop you from supporting clean energy development in your community – so this project seeks to create solar access!

At UpGrade Ohio, we believe everyone deserves a chance to support clean energy and reduce the high-cost of electric utility bills through energy conservation projects. In Appalachian Ohio, low-income households stand to gain the most from solar development in places that provide vital services, such as schools, public housing, and nonprofit resource centers. The problem is, public dollars are stretched too thin and renewable energy systems are out of reach.

The solution is the Solar ACCESS Pilot Project. UpGrade Ohio has been working with a team of solar finance and project developers to design a model that aggregates local dollars from average, everyday investors and pairs it with traditional capital to finance solar installations on community buildings in Appalachian Ohio.

Solar ACCESS is off to a great start, winning entrance in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar In Your Community Challenge. Seed funding from the DOE greases the wheels, but we need solid community support to bring this project to fruition. We hope to launch the Solar ACCESS Pilot project in August 2017 and open up community subscription opportunities to individuals, businesses, and supporters of all stripes. This is your chance to “Harvest the Power of the Sun” in your community with Solar ACCESS!



Solar ACCESS – a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative

Athens County has one of the highest rates of poverty and yet has more residential solar per capita than most counties in Ohio. The opportunity to extend solar development benefits to an under-served population can only come with the strategic development of a community-supported model that allows everyday people to participate in the solar economy.

Our long-term goal is to establish a community fund that provides access for local people to participate, support, and enhance solar development projects located on schools, government agencies and public housing, providing a direct economical and environmental benefit to Appalachian families in Southeast Ohio.

The Solar ACCESS Project aggregates local subscription dollars to install solar on community assets serving low-to-moderate income (LMI) families in Appalachian Ohio. Initial projects include a school district, housing authority, and nonprofit resource center bundled to build 1 megawatt (MW) of solar capacity in 18 months.

The primary barriers to community solar in Ohio are the lack of enabling state polices and financing strategies for small-scale projects benefiting LMI households. Our innovation expands Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) opportunities beyond traditional investors to include diverse community capital sources and subscription opportunities for LMI families. Social benefits of this project include energy cost savings, rural wealth creation, solar jobs, and LMI access to the solar economy.