Community-Driven Community Solar

The Community-Driven Community Solar (“CDCS”) category includes community solar projects up to 5 MW that meet the criteria to be classified as community-driven. The CDCS category will comprise at least 5% of Illinois Shines generally and these projects are intended to provide a more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities in which they operate.

For assistance in this project category, contact the Community Solar Sector Strategist, Jess Blue, at [email protected] or the Program Administrator team at [email protected].

Two contractors installing a group of solar panels.

Category-Specific Resources

Primary & Secondary Scoring Criteria for 2024-25 Program Year

The 2024-25 Program Year closes at 11:59 p.m. CST on September 1, 2024 (90 days from June 3, 2024)

The CDCS category intends to provide more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities which CDCS projects serve or in which they operate and, additionally, to increase the variety of community solar locations, models, and options in Illinois. The IPA Act defines “Community” as a social unit in which people come together regularly to effect change; a social unit in which participants are marked by a cooperative spirit, a common purpose, or shared interests or characteristics; or a space understood by its residents to be delineated through geographic boundaries or landmarks. 

This consistent interpretation of “community” will be used across all projects. In Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties, “community” will be limited to township as these are the most populated counties in the state. In all other counties, community will be considered the whole county. 

After the Scoring Cure Period concludes, projects will be selected from the application pool in the order of highest to lowest score until the block is fully allocated. A minimum score of 6 points must be achieved to be eligible for a REC contract via the CDCS category. Random selection will be utilized as a tiebreaker only for equally scored projects to fill available capacity, if any. However, should the capacity available be so small as to only accommodate one or more projects below a certain size, then the Agency may only consider those projects small enough to not exceed that remaining capacity. After project selection, projects that have a minimum score of 10 points will be placed on a waitlist for the 2025-26 Program year. The following rubric has been developed for the CDCS scoring process. 

Primary Selection Criteria – Maximum of 20 points available

Criteria1 Point2 Points3 Points4 Points
A. Community ownership or community wealth-building through having a minimum of 50% of the ownership of the project held by community residents or non-profit organizations which directly serve the community where the project is located. This would include having members of the community being able to participate in decisions regarding the governance, operation, maintenance, and upgrades of and to the project; and members of that community benefiting from the project through subscriptions to the project.50% ownership60% ownership70% ownership80% and up ownership
B. Additional direct and indirect benefits, beyond project participation as a subscriber, including, but not limited to, economic, environmental, social, cultural, and physical benefits. The application must quantify the value of these benefits and they must represent at least 20% of the REC contract value.
  • Direct benefits can include, but are not limited to, financial benefits for the owner(s) and subscribers, such as bill savings, revenues from project ownership, tax credits, and the financial value of the project, as well as job creation, direct income, and increased economic activity in the defined geographic community.

  • Indirect benefits can include, but are not limited to, demonstration of environmental, educational, and cultural benefits.
20% of REC contract value25% of REC contract value30% of REC contract valueMore than 35% of REC contract value
C. Meaningful involvement in project organization and development by community members, non-profit organizations, or public entities located in or serving the community.
  • Meaningful involvement in project organization as used herein can mean, but is not limited to, a process that consists of public input, participation and engagement in the program design process, including workshops, webinars, and public comment periods all of which afford stakeholders (those who have an interest or stake in an issue, such as individuals, interest groups, and communities) the opportunity to influence decisions that impact their community.
3 or fewer community members or organizations engaged in Moderate project organization and development3 or fewer community members or organizations engaged in Substantial project organization and development4 or more community members or organizations engaged in Moderate project organization and development4 or more community members or organizations engaged in Substantial project organization and development
D. Engagement in project operations and management by nonprofit organizations, public entities, or community members.
  • • Engagement as used herein can mean, but is not limited to, continuous community participation and consultation as projects are built, operated, and maintained in a way that affords opportunities for the community to weigh in on and make decisions regarding the project.
Minimal community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and management. Moderate community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and management.Substantial community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and managementExtensive or more community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and management
E. Whether the project is developed in response to a site-specific RFP developed by community members, or a non-profit organization or public entity located in or serving the community.Was indeed developed in response to site-specific RFP

Secondary Selection Criteria – Maximum of 16 points available

Criteria1 Point2 Points
A. Projects that are developed in collaboration with or to provide complementary opportunities for the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, the Illinois Climate Works Pre-apprenticeship Program, the Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program, the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, or the Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program.
  • Complementary opportunities as used herein can mean, but is not limited to: utilizing graduates of job training programs in project development; hiring job training graduates permanently for future projects, not just the applicant project; an expansion of the goals of the job training programs to include ‘business training,’ on how to develop a project, get financing, recruit customers, etc.
Provide complementary opportunities to listed programsDeveloped in collaboration w/listed programs
B. Projects that increase the diversity of locations of community solar projects in Illinois, including by locating in urban areas and population centers.Population of locality is 50,000 – 69,999

(Locality meaning city, town, or village)
Population of locality is 70,000 or more

(Locality meaning city, town, or village)
C. Projects that are located in Equity Investment Eligible Communities.Whole project needs to be sited in EIEC; projects that are only partially in an EIEC will be reviewed on case-by-case basis.
D. Projects that are not greenfield projects.Definition of greenfield: Greenfield project means a project proposed at a site that is either previously undeveloped land or agricultural land and that does not meet the definition of a brownfield site
E. Projects that serve only local subscribers.
Local subscribers are subscribers in the same county as the project, or if that project’s county population is below 50,000, then also in adjacent counties.
Need to serve local subscribers for the length of REC contract.
F. Projects that have a nameplate capacity that does not exceed 500 kW.Nameplate capacity (project AC size) is 500 kW or less.
G. Projects that are developed by an equity eligible contractor.All development work is done by the EEC.1
H. Projects that otherwise meaningfully advance the goals of providing more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities which they serve or in which they operate and increasing the variety of community solar locations, models, and options in Illinois.Need to both provide connection/benefits OR increase variety of locations/models/optionsNeed to both provide connection/benefits AND increase variety of locations/models/options

1 For purposes of this category, “project development work” refers to all construction and electrical work on a project, and project-specific site assessment work such as permitting, legal, and other site-specific development work, including work that may have already been undertaken prior to project application. Non-site specific development functions (such as general sales and marketing activities) will not be considered as project development work. This definition also differs from the “project workforce” definition utilized for the Minimum Equity Standards as outlined in P.A. 102-0662, for which a firm’s Illinois-based employees are included in the “project workforce” regardless of function.

All Community-Driven Community Solar (“CDCS”) projects submitted during or after the 2022-23 Program Year will be evaluated against the scoring guidelines outlined in Appendix F of the Program Guidebook. At Part II application review, the Program Administrator will request confirmation that any commitments made in the Part I application were fulfilled throughout project development and installation. The Program Administrator will only enforce completion of items proposed in the Part I narrative application and awarded points in the Community Driven Community Solar (“CDCS”) Part I scoring process.

Any changes to commitments made in the Part I application submission which resulted in more favorable scoring (and thus a higher likelihood of contract award) will be considered an event of default under the REC Delivery Contract resulting in the full forfeiture of collateral, with the system unable to be Part II verified.

At Part II application submission, please submit a detailed narrative demonstrating how the Part I scoring commitments have been achieved and include supporting documentation. The Program Administrator may request additional information during the Part II review process. The scoring commitments must be approved by the Program Administrator during the Part II review process, prior to Part II Verification of the project.

Please note: The IPA Act defines “Community” as a social unit in which people come together regularly to effect change; a social unit in which participants are marked by a cooperative spirit, a common purpose, or shared interests or characteristics; or a space understood by its residents to be delineated through geographic boundaries or landmarks. This definition was utilized to assess benefits and award points for all projects, including those submitted in the 2022-23 Program Year.

Approved Vendors must submit proper documentation for each scoring criterion sought based on the following table:

Primary Scoring CriterionWhat should be submitted at Part II
A. Community ownership or community wealth-building through having a minimum of 50% of the ownership of the project held by community residents or non-profit organizations which directly serve the community where the project is located. This would include having members of the community being able to participate in decisions regarding the governance, operation, maintenance, and upgrades of and to the project; and members of that community benefiting from the project through subscriptions to the project.Please detail how the percent ownership claimed in Part I has been achieved and provide supporting documentation. Supporting documentation can include proof of ownership by community residents or non-profit organizations and demonstration of decision-making ability and participation.  

Community subscriptions will be confirmed during the Part II subscriber verification process prior to Part II verification.
B. Additional direct and indirect benefits, beyond project participation as a subscriber, including, but not limited to, economic, environmental, social, cultural, and physical benefits. The application must quantify the value of these benefits and they must represent at least 20% of the REC contract value.

Direct benefits can include, but are not limited to, financial benefits for the owner(s) and subscribers, such as bill savings, revenues from project ownership, tax credits, and the financial value of the project, as well as job creation, direct income, and increased economic activity in the defined geographic community.   Indirect benefits can include, but are not limited to, demonstration of environmental, educational, and cultural benefits.
Please show that the commitments made in Part I were maintained, addressing each commitment and include any contracts, agreements, or supporting documentation.  

Here are examples of supporting documentation:
– For a donation, please provide evidence of donation (per IRS): a bank record or a written communication from the qualified organization containing the name of the organization, the amount, and the date of the contribution. This could be in the form of a receipt or an acknowledgement letter/proof of charitable contribution.
– For subscriber bill savings, please calculate the annual projected bill savings over the 15-year life of the project.
– For increased economic activity (local labor, materials, etc.), please provide contracts/receipts of the work that has already occurred and the planned work that will occur over the life of the contract.
– For local taxes, please provide a copy of the annual tax bill.
– For demonstration of environmental, educational, and cultural benefits, please provide a narrative related to these benefits and include any relevant documentation of such community benefits.  

The total local contributions of the contract value over 15 years must be maintained, but changes to the specific contributions and timelines proposed in the narrative are permitted.  

The Program Administrator may request more information regarding these commitments in the Annual Report.
C. Meaningful involvement in project organization and development by community members, non-profit organizations, or public entities located in or serving the community.

Meaningful involvement in project organization as used herein can mean, but is not limited to, a process that consists of public input, participation and engagement in the program design process, including workshops, webinars, and public comment periods all of which afford stakeholders (those who have an interest or stake in an issue, such as individuals, interest groups, and communities) the opportunity to influence decisions that impact their community.
Please detail the community, non-profit, and or public entity involvement that occurred during project organization and development.  

Please address each commitment stated in Part I and show how it has been completed. Small changes in the involvement of community members, non-profit organizations or public entities stated in Part I are permitted if the overall level of commitment is maintained.
D. Engagement in project operations and management by nonprofit organizations, public entities, or community members.

Engagement as used herein can mean, but is not limited to, continuous community participation and consultation as projects are built, operated, and maintained in a way that affords opportunities for the community to weigh in on and make decisions regarding the project.
Please detail the existing and planned future engagement that will occur throughout the 15-year life of the REC contract.  

Please address each commitment stated in Part I and show how it has been or will be completed. Small changes in the engagement of community members, non-profit organizations or public entities stated in Part I are permitted if the overall level of commitment is maintained.  

The Program Administrator may request more information regarding these commitments in the Annual Report.
E. Whether the project is developed in response to a site-specific RFP developed by community members, or a non-profit organization or public entity located in or serving the community.No explanation or documentation required, as this was verified in Part I application review.  

Secondary Scoring CriterionWhat should be submitted at Part II
A. Projects that are developed in collaboration with or to provide complementary opportunities for the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, the Illinois Climate Works Pre-apprenticeship Program, the Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program, the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, or the Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program.

Complementary opportunities as used herein can mean, but is not limited to utilizing graduates of job training programs in project development; hiring job training graduates permanently for future projects, not just the applicant project; an expansion of the goals of the job training programs to include ‘business training,’ on how to develop a project, get financing, recruit customers, etc.
Please demonstrate how the project has collaborated with or provided complementary opportunities for the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, the Illinois Climate Works Pre-apprenticeship Program, the Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program, the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, or the Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program. If these Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) workforce programs are still in development at the time of Part II submission, please provide an explanation as to why the collaboration/complementary opportunities have not occurred and a written commitment/plan for future collaboration or complementary opportunities over the project’s life.  

The Program Administrator may request more information regarding these commitments in the Annual Report.  
B. Projects that increase the diversity of locations of community solar projects in Illinois, including by locating in urban areas and population centers.No explanation or documentation required, as this was verified in Part I application review.  
C. Projects that are located in Equity Investment Eligible Communities.No explanation or documentation required, as this was verified in Part I application review.  
D. Projects that are not greenfield projects.No explanation or documentation required, as this was verified in Part I application review.
E. Projects that serve only local subscribers.
Local subscribers are subscribers in the same county as the project, or if that project’s county population is below 50,000, then also in adjacent counties.
Please submit subscriber information (as of the energization date) including proof that minimum subscriber commitments have been met (50% of capacity must be subscribed, and all subscribers must be local). Also include the percentage of small subscribers (as a share of total system capacity). This information will be verified during Part II subscriber verification.
F. Projects that have a nameplate capacity that does not exceed 500 kW.No explanation or documentation required, as this was verified in Part I application review.
G. Projects that are developed by an Equity Eligible Contractor.Please demonstrate that all “project development work” (all construction and electrical work on a project, and project-specific site assessment work such as permitting, legal, and other site-specific development work, including work that may have already been undertaken prior to project application) has been completed by the equity eligible contractor (EEC) stated in the Part I application. Non-site specific development functions (such as general sales and marketing activities) will not be considered as project development work.  

Documentation can include an electrical procurement construction (EPC) contract, or other relevant contractual agreements.
H. Projects that otherwise meaningfully advance the goals of providing more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities which they serve or in which they operate and increasing the variety of community solar locations, models, and options in Illinois.Please demonstrate via narrative and relevant supporting documentation how the project is working towards the goals of providing more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities which they serve, and a plan to continue this work throughout the life of the project.

After Part II Verification

As most of the scoring criteria for CDCS projects will take place during the project development cycle (thus take place across the Part I and Part II application process), there is a limited scope of criteria that the Agency will need to monitor after Part II verification. If applicable, the Program Administrator will seek to monitor some requirements throughout the life of the REC Delivery Contract. The Program Administrator will request updated reporting at the Annual Report each July for such commitments and will also seek to ensure that projects that have made these commitments are in compliance via random project inspections. Failure to uphold these commitments may result in an Event of Default under the REC Contract.

On June 3, 2024 Community-Driven Community Solar capacity for the 2024-25 Program Year opened with 11 MW for Group A and 25 MW for Group B. Capacity was first allocated to projects on the 2023-24 Group A and Group B Waitlists. The list of awarded waitlist projects can be found below.

Awarded CDCS Projects in 2024-25

On June 1, 2023, Community-Driven Community Solar capacity for the 2023-2024 Program Year opened and Approved Vendors were able to submit CDCS applications. In accordance with the CDCS scoring guidelines previously published in both the 2022 Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (pg. 166) and the Program Guidebook (pg. 123) the Program Administrator has scored all CDCS projects submitted during the 90 day application window.These scores are published below, and the full CDCS scoring announcement can be found here.

2023-2024 CDCS Solar ScoringPublication Date
2023-2024 CDCS Solar ScoringOctober 30, 2023

 

December 6, 2023 Random Selection Event

CDCS Capacity for the 2022-2023 Program Year was fully awarded during the Random Selection Event. Please see the announcement for more details. Projects submitted after June 1, 2023 will be prioritized and processed in the order received and will be added to the applicable waitlists for the CDCS blocks if the project meets the 10.0 point minimum threshold. These waitlists are published on the Block Capacity Dashboard and are updated regularly. Waitlisted projects will be eligible for new capacity released for the 2024-2025 Program Year beginning June 1, 2024.

View the recording here

View the slides here

View the results spreadsheet here

View the Q&A here

 

On September 1, 2022, Community-Driven Community Solar capacity for the 2022-2023 Program Year opened and Approved Vendors were able to submit CDCS applications. In accordance with the CDCS scoring guidelines previously published in both the 2022 Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (pg. 166), the Program Guidebook (pg. 22), and the Primary and Secondary Selection criteria published on May 26, 2023 the Program Administrator has scored all CDCS projects submitted during the 90 day application window that are Part I processed. 

These scores are published below, and the full CDCS scoring announcement can be found here. 

2022-2023 CDCS Solar ScoringPublication Date
2022-2023 CDCS Solar ScoringJuly 26, 2023

July 26, 2023 Random Selection Event 

View the recording here 

View the slides here 

View the results spreadsheet here 

 

The Community Driven Community Solar (“CDCS”) application window for the 2023-24 Program Year closed at 11:59 p.m. CST on August 30, 2023.

The CDCS category intends to provide more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities which CDCS projects serve or in which they operate and, additionally, to increase the variety of community solar locations, models, and options in Illinois. The IPA Act defines “Community” as a social unit in which people come together regularly to effect change; a social unit in which participants are marked by a cooperative spirit, a common purpose, or shared interests or characteristics; or a space understood by its residents to be delineated through geographic boundaries or landmarks.

This consistent interpretation of “community” will be used across all projects. In Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties, “community” will be limited to township as these are the most populated counties in the state. In all other counties, community will be considered the whole county.

After the Scoring Cure Period concludes, projects will be selected from the application pool in the order of highest to lowest score until the block is fully allocated. A minimum score of 6 points must be achieved to be eligible for a REC contract via the CDCS category. Random selection will be utilized as a tiebreaker only for equally scored projects to fill available capacity, if any. However, should the capacity available be so small as to only accommodate one or more projects below a certain size, then the Agency may only consider those projects small enough to not exceed that remaining capacity. After project selection, projects that have a minimum score of 10 points will be placed on a waitlist for the 2024-2025 Program year. The following rubric has been developed for the CDCS scoring process.

Primary Selection Criteria – Maximum of 20 points available

Criteria1 Point2 Points3 Points4 Points
A. Community ownership or community wealth-building through having a minimum of 50% of the ownership of the project held by community residents or non-profit organizations which directly serve the community where the project is located. This would include having members of the community being able to participate in decisions regarding the governance, operation, maintenance, and upgrades of and to the project; and members of that community benefiting from the project through subscriptions to the project.50% ownership60% ownership70% ownership80% and up ownership
B. Additional direct and indirect benefits, beyond project participation as a subscriber, including, but not limited to, economic, environmental, social, cultural, and physical benefits. The application must quantify the value of these benefits and they must represent at least 20% of the REC contract value.
  • Direct benefits can include, but are not limited to, financial benefits for the owner(s) and subscribers, such as bill savings, revenues from project ownership, tax credits, and the financial value of the project, as well as job creation, direct income, and increased economic activity in the defined geographic community.

  • Indirect benefits can include, but are not limited to, demonstration of environmental, educational, and cultural benefits.
20% of REC contract value25% of REC contract value30% of REC contract valueMore than 35% of REC contract value
C. Meaningful involvement in project organization and development by community members, non-profit organizations, or public entities located in or serving the community.
  • Meaningful involvement in project organization as used herein can mean, but is not limited to, a process that consists of public input, participation and engagement in the program design process, including workshops, webinars, and public comment periods all of which afford stakeholders (those who have an interest or stake in an issue, such as individuals, interest groups, and communities) the opportunity to influence decisions that impact their community.
3 or fewer community members or organizations engaged in Moderate project organization and development3 or fewer community members or organizations engaged in Substantial project organization and development4 or more community members or organizations engaged in Moderate project organization and development4 or more community members or organizations engaged in Substantial project organization and development
D. Engagement in project operations and management by nonprofit organizations, public entities, or community members.
  • • Engagement as used herein can mean, but is not limited to, continuous community participation and consultation as projects are built, operated, and maintained in a way that affords opportunities for the community to weigh in on and make decisions regarding the project.
Minimal community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and management. Moderate community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and management.Substantial community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and managementExtensive or more community members’ or organizations’ involvement or plans for involvement in project operations and management
E. Whether the project is developed in response to a site-specific RFP developed by community members, or a non-profit organization or public entity located in or serving the community.Was indeed developed in response to site-specific RFP

Secondary Selection Criteria – Maximum of 16 points available

Criteria1 Point2 Points
A. Projects that are developed in collaboration with or to provide complementary opportunities for the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, the Illinois Climate Works Pre-apprenticeship Program, the Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program, the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, or the Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program.
  • Complementary opportunities as used herein can mean, but is not limited to: utilizing graduates of job training programs in project development; hiring job training graduates permanently for future projects, not just the applicant project; an expansion of the goals of the job training programs to include ‘business training,’ on how to develop a project, get financing, recruit customers, etc.
Provide complementary opportunities to listed programsDeveloped in collaboration w/listed programs
B. Projects that increase the diversity of locations of community solar projects in Illinois, including by locating in urban areas and population centers.Population of locality is 50,000 – 69,999

(Locality meaning city, town, or village)
Population of locality is 70,000 or more

(Locality meaning city, town, or village)
C. Projects that are located in Equity Investment Eligible Communities.Whole project needs to be sited in EIEC; projects that are only partially in an EIEC will be reviewed on case-by-case basis.
D. Projects that are not greenfield projects.Definition of greenfield: Greenfield project means a project proposed at a site that is either previously undeveloped land or agricultural land and that does not meet the definition of a brownfield site
E. Projects that serve only local subscribers.
Local subscribers are subscribers in the same county as the project, or if that project’s county population is below 50,000, then also in adjacent counties.
Need to serve local subscribers for the length of REC contract.
F. Projects that have a nameplate capacity that does not exceed 500 kW.Nameplate capacity (project AC size) is 500 kW or less.
G. Projects that are developed by an equity eligible contractor.All development work is done by the EEC.1
H. Projects that otherwise meaningfully advance the goals of providing more direct and tangible connection and benefits to the communities which they serve or in which they operate and increasing the variety of community solar locations, models, and options in Illinois.Need to both provide connection/benefits OR increase variety of locations/models/optionsNeed to both provide connection/benefits AND increase variety of locations/models/options

1 For purposes of this category, “project development work” refers to all construction and electrical work on a project, and project-specific site assessment work such as permitting, legal, and other site-specific development work, including work that may have already been undertaken prior to project application. Non-site specific development functions (such as general sales and marketing activities) will not be considered as project development work. This definition also differs from the “project workforce” definition utilized for the Minimum Equity Standards as outlined in P.A. 102-0662, for which a firm’s Illinois-based employees are included in the “project workforce” regardless of function.

Category-Specific Updates

This blog includes key items specific to this Illinois Shines project category, but AVs and Designees are still expected to read all Program announcements in full, which contain other critical Program items and updates.