The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to making solar energy accessible to communities of all income levels. Founded in 2000, RREAL has been pioneering the use of solar energy to address low-income fuel poverty throughout the Midwest.
RREAL accomplishes its mission primarily through our Solar Assistance program which provides residential solar energy systems to low-income families on public energy assistance as a lasting, clean and domestic solution to low-income fuel poverty. A nationally unique solution, RREAL has provided more than 350 solar electric and solar thermal energy systems to low-income households at no cost in partnership with community action agencies, the State of Minnesota, Housing and Redevelopment Authority agencies, Habitat for Humanity affiliates, affordable housing providers and tribal communities.
Through RREALs most recent 2-year project completed in 2015, Project Standing Sun, 62 households were equipped with solar energy systems in 4 states, providing a total of 99kW of clean, reliable, affordable, and locally-produced solar power. This effort included 22 funders and partners, and work was also completed in three tribal communities.
The board of trustees of the McKnight Foundation recently awarded a grant to RREAL to be used to implement Community Solar for Community Action A New Model of Energy Assistance. RREAL will plan and build the first Community Solar garden for Community Action in the nation and provide a transformative, broadly relevant model of a long-term, climate-appropriate solution to low-income energy assistance.
A new, paradigm shifting model for low-income energy assistance, this project will assemble a coalition of stakeholders to implement a low-income community solar garden project in partnership with a rural community action agency in Minnesota.
This emerging community solar garden model provides opportunities for utility rate-payers of any income level to invest in solar energy by purchasing shares and rights to the energy production in a larger solar electric array sited elsewhere. For those who don't own their residence or have a poor solar site, community solar is a great model for making solar energy more accessible and affordable to a much broader audience. Community Solar for Community Action allows the energy assistance provider to own the means of production, control the costs, be insulated from political volatility in funding and reduce carbon emissions while providing the service of energy assistance for decades rather than months! Rather than the carbon-intensive temporary solution that energy assistance is today, Community Solar for Community Action is a practical, economically wise, lasting and climate-appropriate solution.
RREAL has also broadened its range of service by creating Skip the Grid, an international initiative focused on bringing solar power to health care systems and other critical infrastructure in West Africa. Most clinics and many hospitals around the world are off the grid,relying ongenerators where fuel is difficult and costly to deliver. Hospitals often must shut down their power system for periods of time to conserve fuel. Vaccines are jeopardized and operations become more risky with intermittent or no power.
Without consistent and reliable power, rural communities face an uphill battle in managing very real health challenges. PV microgrids represent a sustainable, long-term solution that would free up capital for direct health care initiatives, as well as mitigate numerous untold environmental, social, and health costs.
The Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America have partnered with the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) to propose the construction of a photovoltaic solar array to serve the energy needs of Phebe Hospital. By investing funds in a photovoltaic microgrid, Phebe Hospital and its staff will not only be empowered to achieve self-reliance through solar power, but serve as a powerful model for rebuilding critical infrastructure in a resilient manner.
RREAL | 2330 Dancing Wind Rd. SW, Suite 2 | Pine River, MN | 56474 | 218.587.4753 | www.rreal.org