Energizing Rural Communities Prize: winners

Innovation and sustainable futures in America’s rural landscapes

In the pursuit of a greener future, it is imperative that no communities are left behind. It’s with this ethos that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) has launched the Energizing Rural Communities Prize. This innovative initiative seeks to help rural and remote communities, home to nearly 50 million Americans, overcome the barriers of limited access to partnerships and funding.

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize forms an essential part of the larger $1 billion Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program, established under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The ERA Program, serving areas with populations not exceeding 10,000 individuals, explores novel ways to enhance the resilience, reliability, safety, availability, and environmental performance of energy systems. It brings hope to many Americans living in areas where energy costs are typically disproportionately high, and service reliability is a constant concern.

Prize structure

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize competition is structured in two distinct tracks, each containing two phases.

The Partner Track invites applicants to formulate strategies to build or enhance partnerships. These collaborations aim to connect rural or remote communities to government funding, technical assistance, and a supportive ecosystem, enabling the execution of clean energy demonstration projects.

The Finance Track encourages applicants to develop innovative business models and community ownership models. These strategies are intended to finance clean energy demonstration projects in rural or remote areas.

The competition, open to a wide array of individuals and organizations such as entrepreneurs, university faculty and student groups, community organizations, tribal and local governments, financial institutions, and industry professionals, has seen enthusiastic participation.

In July 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced 67 winners for Phase One of the Energizing Rural Communities Prize. These victorious teams, each awarded a cash prize of $100,000, are now eligible to participate in Phase Two of the competition. The variety of the winning teams underlines the vast potential of diverse perspectives in tackling energy challenges and underscores the importance of broad-based involvement in the energy transition.

Finance track winners

The winners of the Finance Track hail from a wide range of locations and bring unique perspectives and solutions to the table.

CDC-PHP Empowerment CoalitionPembroke, IL
Collective Energy, Community Health Center Capital Fund, and Chiricahua Community Health Center Microgrid Lending and Development ProjectWillcox, AZ
FaheWhitesburg, KY
Funding Sicangu EnergyRosebud, SD
Garfield Clean Energy CollaborativeParachute, CO
GRID Alternatives, Energy Resilience FundWellpinit, WA
Making Mr. CEF’S (Minnesota Rural Clean Energy Finance) Capital Stack BurgerMotley, MN
Native CDFI NetworkWhite Cloud, KS
Nevada Clean Energy FundTown of Battle Mountain, NV
Project GreenlightLakeview, OR
SolarShare WI CooperativeTown of Lemonweir, WI
Triple Bottom Line Foundation (TBL Fund)Acoma, NM

Partner Track Winners

The Partner Track winners also showcase a diverse array of teams and solutions.

Advancing Tribal Energy Sovereignty – Spark NorthwestKingston, WA
AgWind QualifiersSinton, TX
Alaska Municipal LeagueToksook Bay, AK
Beaver Island Smart Energy TeamBeaver Island, MI
Big Bend Community Development TeamQuincy, FL
CEBE Cooperative SolarNorway, ME
CERTs & WETCCMahnomen, MN
Clean Energy Bounty SeekersOwyhee, NV
Clean Energy NHWhitefield, NH
Clean Energy Solutions GroupMonticello, FL
Coal to Solar in Carrier MillsVillage of Carrier Mills, IL
Cuyama Energy TeamNew Cuyama, CA
E.A.R.T.H.Oldenburg, IN
Energizing DinétahPinon, AZ
Energy Conservation WorksAfton, WY
Farmers Conservation Energy and Resiliency TeamTowaoc, CO
Georgette Jean Enterprises, LLCIdlewild, MI
Illu Global Inc and Waldron Power & LightWaldron Island, WA
Intertribal Community-Owned Solar Program TeamPleasant Point, ME
Island InstituteEastport, ME
Islesboro Energy CommitteeIslesboro, ME
Kitchi-Gami SisuAlger County, MI
Lafayette County Arkansas Rural Energy ProjectBradley City, AR
Little Bob TechnologiesLowndesboro, AL
Midi Enterprises-Bloom Energy Corp PartnershipNew Town, ND
Navajo Nation Solar Initiative TeamShonto, AZ
NRECA’s Partnerships Delivering Defined Mutual Goals (PADEDMUG)Sumterville, FL
PowerUP Philadelphia, MS Clean Energy Solar Project & WorkshopsCity of Philadelphia, MS
Pueblo of San Ildefonso Solar Energy TeamSan Ildefonso Pueblo, NM
RED HOTChina Spring, TX
Region Nine Development CommissionSt. James, MN
Regional Climate Solutions TeamBasalt, CO
RISE Project: Rural Innovation through Solar EmpowermentAliquippa, PA
Rural ActionGlouster, OH
SAGE Development AuthorityFort Yates, ND
Shake Energy CollaborativeHoʻolehua, HI
Silverton GOLD TeamTown of Silverton, CO
Smart GridMagnolia, MN
Solar Workgroup of Southwest VirginiaNorton, VA
Solar4Us @ Mountain MarylandAllegany County, MD
Son Solar MississippiMendenhall, MS
Steering South Texas Toward Solar SuccessLos Fresnos, TX
Strong, Arkansas TeamStrong, AR
SUN Rural Solar Projects & Workforce DevelopmentGeorgetown, SC
Sustainable Grand CountyGranby, CO
Team Climate-Resilient GerlachGerlach, NV
Team SEGAGalena, AK
Team SPUR: Sustaining Productive Utilization of ResourcesKemmerer, WY
The Morris Model Partnership (morrismodel.org)Morris, MN
The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)Blue Mountain, MS
Turtle Mountain Community Renewable Energy PartnersBelcourt, ND
Vieques Energy PartnershipVieques, PR
Village of Dowell & City of Carbondale, IL CollaborationVillage of Dowell, IL
Wallowa ResourcesWallowa County, OR
Yellow Springs Development CorporationYellow Springs, OH

The full list of winners and more information about each team’s contributions to the Energizing Rural Communities Prize can be found at herox.com/rural-energy/.

Empowering the future: energizing rural communities

As the sun sets on the era of traditional energy sources, initiatives like the Energizing Rural Communities Prize herald a promising dawn. The winning teams of this competition, drawn from the breadth and depth of the country, bring not just innovation, but also hope, to the remote corners of our nation. By championing clean energy, fostering partnerships, and funding solutions, these pioneers are sowing the seeds for a future where sustainable energy systems are not a luxury but a given. They ensure that no community is too remote to be part of the greener tomorrow.

This change won’t happen overnight. Real transformation is a product of patience, perseverance, and the pooling of collective wisdom. The efforts of the prize winners today are investments in the generations of tomorrow, safeguarding their right to reliable, clean energy. As these initiatives continue to gain momentum, they will not just shape the future of rural America, but influence the global discourse on clean energy and sustainable living.

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize winners prove that we don’t have to choose between progress and preservation. With vision and collaboration, we can carve a path that respects our roots while reaching for a cleaner, brighter future.


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