Community Energy Resiliency

The Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resiliency (RACER) was awarded to the City of Duluth in April 2023 from the Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). The award brought close to $1 million in funds to develop Duluth’s solar future while creating a toolkit for other municipalities to utilize. Being the only municipality to be awarded funds across the country, the City is also excited to provide a community solar and storage planning toolkit for other cold climate cities.


So, what does solar planning look like? The City will work with community partners to understand how and where solar photovoltaics and battery storage should be deployed to strengthen community resiliency in the face of extreme weather events. SETO is providing all funding for the research and development of this project and is not requiring the City to expend any matching funds. This includes funding for grant and project management, community input and research, economic and social analyses, and site evaluation and assessment. While the grant has a two-year timeline, so much work has already taken place!


Since the contract finalization in August of 2023, the co-principal investigator, Ecolibrium3, began tabling at events and gaining community input. They are currently working to identify individuals from and around the community to participate in community focus groups which will take place in 2024. These focus groups will drive the community voice aspect of the grant and determine what sites and assets are important to the community. This perspective is vital for creating equitable community assets that are tailored to community needs and increased resiliency.


In order to better understand what City assets are appropriate for solar deployment and how they might provide community benefit to increase resiliency, the project organized an emergency response scenario-planning exercise. This exercise consisted of convening 19 different regional and community organizations, and multiple city departments, to discuss what could happen if Duluth loses power. During the scenario, 40 individuals discussed how to best respond as a community and how to mitigate discovered issues in the future. The scenario was a defining moment for the grant as it helped to expose possible scenarios the City could face during a power outage, along with mitigation solutions for the future.


The RACER team has selected a vendor to help with solar site evaluation in 2024. A team of City departments and community partners narrowed down sites that would best establish community resilience by deploying solar and storage on them. By January, the team will narrow down the search to 10


The City hopes to finish a majority of site assessments and community research in the coming year so that by winter of 2024/2025, the team can work with other municipalities to draft a toolkit for cold climate cities. The toolkit will help other cities speed up their solar future planning!    


Resilient Power Siting Rubric

*This is only a working draft and the final version will be included in the toolkit*

We would love to hear your feedback on the rubric draft. Please email Brett Crecelius at with any feedback, comments, or questions.