INTERVIEW: Solstice Executive Discusses Community Solar Partnership with Reactivate

Solstice Power Technologies has teamed up with developer Reactivate to provide subscription acquisition and management services to all of their community solar projects nationwide over the next several years.

The partnership is expected to deliver hundreds of megawatts of projects to low-income, environmental justice and energy transition communities across the county.

“We are going to be active with Reactivate in every single state that is a community solar state,” said Steph Speirs, co-founder, and CEO of Solstice, in an interview with NPM.

The joint venture commenced with five projects in Illinois, to which Solstice has surpassed 75 percent subscription on three low-income community solar projects developed by Reactivate. Two other projects commenced enrollment last month. All the projects take part in Illinois Solar for All Community Solar Program. Spiers was unable to provide additional details on which states they will be joining Reactivate in next.

Invenergy and Lafayette Square launched the Reactivate platform in January 2022 and got active in Illinois right out of the gate as it announced a separate partnership with Trajectory Energy Partners in September 2022 to develop a portfolio of community solar projects in Illinois.

“As they increase their community solar projects across the country, buoyed by the momentum of the IRA we are growing alongside them,” Speirs said. “You do not really see that many developers partner with the explicit goal of getting more low-income households across the country clean energy access. Even though it is such a big part of the IRA, which is still a fairly new mission in the development world.”

Solstice currently has active projects in New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

In states that do not have legislation, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, they are actively advocating for laws to be passed and making sure those laws are as inclusive as possible to low-income households, Spiers said, pointing out that only two community solar states do not have low-income carve outs.

“On a regulatory level, it is becoming way more important to do low-income well, but we run the danger of people doing it thoughtfully in a way that doesn’t exploit or extract from low-income communities,” added Spiers.

Solstice is currently working with 14 developers and has a pipeline of 22 developers for future projects. They are actively negotiating contracts in every state with community solar legislation, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland, and Virginia. In New Mexico, they have partnered with four developers to subscribe 100 MW of the 200 MW awarded by the state in the New Mexico Community Solar RFP. External growth is powering internal growth, as the company has recently crossed the 50-employee threshold.

“We are going to continue to grow. We have aggressive hiring and growth plans in the next couple of years,” Speirs said.

Solstice is different than some of their competitors in how they reach out to customers. They actively prioritize building partnerships with local community organizations, such as municipalities and nonprofits that serve disadvantaged communities, that already have the trust of the community and then enroll their networks for community solar that way.

A big part of what Solstice does is build community trust locally and expand the number of people who can benefit from clean energy through these networks of trusts. In Illinois, for example, Solstice is partnered with 11 municipalities, who agree to work with the company to spread the word of the community solar project to their community and they share revenues with the town.

“Having that trust in local communities is essential—especially in community solar,” Speirs said. “As you grow across the country, a lot of companies are entering this space and aren’t working to build trust with local communities and so they’re seeing a lot of local criticism of their projects.”

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