DWEA Among DOE’s Energizing Rural Communities Prize Awards

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) on July 14 announced that DWEA was among 67 winners in the first phase of the $6.7 millionEnergizing Rural Communities Prize. This prize challenges individuals and organizations to develop partnership and financing strategies to support efforts in rural or remote communities to improve their energy systems and advance clean energy demonstration projects. Each of the 67 winners will receive $100,000, in-kind-mentorship services, and eligibility to compete in phase two of the prize to win an additional $200,000.

DWEA’s proposal was to establish the AgWind technical assistance project which will provide free basic distributed wind feasibility analyses and developer/dealer referrals for communities, organizations, companies, and individuals to help accelerate DW (distributed wind) deployment. AgWind will establish selection criteria, procedures, and consultant fees; create an online feasibility tool combining web interfaces with wind resource and geospatial data together with financial evaluation algorithms; and form a referral system and financing references. AgWind’s trial services will utilize quantifiable data to showcase the potential for distributed wind investment and cost savings for potential customers, specifically targeting Justice40 communities.

As explained by Heather Rhoads of eFormative Options who will manage the project, DWEA plans “to work with communities in regions with good wind resources to provide services pre-qualifying sites for further development where requested, and in parallel pursue additional project funding for AgWind’s free services.” The first qualifying area for an AgWind pilot will be Sinton, Texas, and other rural areas around Corpus Christi. “Then we want to expand quickly to focus on other rural communities across Texas as well as Massachusetts, California, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and other states with high DW potential,” Rhoads said.

Through an established team of independent wind energy experts serving as paid AgWind consultants, DWEA aims to assist at least 30 potential projects this year. Justice 40 opportunities are a key program element, addressing equity and ensuring clean energy access for all. “Ultimately, we’re launching AgWind to empower communities to embrace clean energy, reduce energy burdens, and strengthen economic development,” Rhoads said.

DWEA will apply for Phase 2 funding of $200,000 next year to expand AgWind, DWEA President Michael Bergey said.

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize is part of DOE’s $1 billion Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program, managed by OCED. The prize program is a relatively new DOE contractual tool to support small, short timeframe innovative projects that can lead to new products, services, and business models. It has been used extensively by DOE’s Solar Energy Technology Office. The ERA funding was made available through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to demonstrate new ways to improve the resilience, reliability, and affordability of energy systems in communities across the country with 10,000 or fewer people.

The Energizing Rural Communities Prize has two tracks: a partner track that is designed to create and strengthen the necessary networks for implementing energy projects; and a finance track to support new and innovative efforts to access capital or to develop community ownership models to finance energy projects.

The ERA Program also supports rural and remote American communities through technical assistance, grants, and cooperative agreements. Learn more about the ERA Program on theOCED website.