Exploring Solar Solutions

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) staff and crew members stand by the newly completed solar array of the Solar Commons project. Photo credit: RREAL

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) staff and crew members stand by a newly completed solar array of the Solar Commons project on Leech Lake Reservation. Photo credit: RREAL.


Matthew Grimley, a graduate student in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs' Master of Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program, partnered with Minnesota’s Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) to make the benefits of solar energy accessible to communities of all income levels.

Working with community members and with funding from the University's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Grimley and University of Minnesota, Duluth Professor Kathryn Milun made a feasibility study for starting a community-owned solar photovoltaic array. The study looked at the legal obligations and guided RREAL’s decision-making for becoming a solar commons trustee whose income stream from solar service sales would benefit local energy assistance program recipients.

Not only has the project spurred economic and environmental investment in rural Minnesota, it’s a contender in this year’s U.S. Department of Energy’s “Solar in Your Community Challenge,” a $5 million contest to support innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs to bring solar to underserved communities.