What is Solar Forward?

The program that powers rural Colorado communities into the future by starting or supporting solar markets.

If you are a part of a non-profit or community group looking to grow solar in your community, SEI wants to help! We’re seeking communities interested in growing their local solar markets to participate in a new program, Solar Forward.  Community groups or non-profits can apply to receive SEI technical advising on solar-related initiatives for a full year, in addition to a ‘toolkit’ compiled by industry experts tailored to your community’s needs. Read more below.

How it works:

Solar Forward’s Goal

The goal of the project is to use increasingly more affordable solar technology to strengthen the economies, resilience, and independence of Colorado communities in rural areas.

How to Participate

Solar Forward will partner with a community group who wishes to manage a solar-related program in the region in which they are located. This community group can be a neighborhood coalition, a non-profit group, a local governing body or a local rural electric cooperative. More information and to apply can be found on the community application below.

Apply Here


Empowering communities through Renewable Energy

Solar Energy International (SEI) is an educational nonprofit founded in 1991 that seeks to empower people, businesses, and communities through renewable energy. Offering online and hands-on courses, SEI has educated over 50,000 students around the world in how to design, install and maintain solar photovoltaic systems. SEI’s mission is a world powered by renewable energy!

As a mission-driven organization, we responded to the economic downturn following the collapse of regional coalmines in our hometown of Western Colorado. SEI started their Economic Revitalization Through Solar efforts in 2015 with the help of AmeriCorps VISTAs. As an outreach program under SEI’s nonprofit umbrella, Economic Revitalization Through Solar began to spur renewable energy adoption as a means of energy revitalization and economic development for our community. Since 2015 these efforts have launched three Solarize programs, created a high school trade-training program Solar in Schools, advanced the passage of C-PACE, and was awarded a bronze designation through the Department of Energy’s SolSmart program recognizing solar positive communities.

Solarize North Fork Valley and Solarize Delta County

  • Three Solarize programs amounting to 400 kW of installed solar, $1.5 million invested in solar, 60 new PV systems, and local solar installation company doubling their capacity
  • Facilitated low-interest financing offerings with local banks
  • Hosted grant workshops for USDA Rural Energy for America for farmers and local businesses
  • SolSmart Bronze Designation for Delta County
  • Honored with an award from the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA)’s 2018 Solar Energy and Storage Awards

Solar in Schools:

SEI started the Solar in Schools (SIS) outreach program to introduce concepts of energy usage, renewable energy technologies, careers and provide hands-on educational experiences to students and teachers in support of STEM initiatives in school. SIS provides solar lab kits, in class presentations, teacher trainings and even 10 hours of modular online educational material. In 2015 began a High School Career and Technical Pathways program with local high schools. This program brings SEI’s industry-leading training curriculum to high school classrooms, and brings high schoolers in rural communities to our lab yard in Paonia, Colorado.

In Delta County, SEI has:

  • Trained over 70 high school students and counting!
  • Established a partnership with local rural electric cooperative Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) to install five, 10 kW solar systems on area high schools part of the Solar in Your Community Challenge. DMEA committed $150,000 of unused capital credits for this program. The first system was completed at Paonia High School on April 2018 and offered hands-on installation experience to students
  • Received a Jared Polis Foundation Grant to conduct a solar and engineering training for area high school teachers in partnership with the Knowles Teacher Initiative.

Learn more about SIS on our dedicated webpage.

C-PACE (Colorado-Property Assessed Clean Energy) and solar financing outreach programs:

  • SEI implemented a C-PACE financing outreach program as a result of the 2016 decision by the County Commissioners to opt-in to the program. As a result, the first rural, Agricultural-centered C-PACE project in Colorado was in Delta County!


Technical + Outreach/Marketing + Programmatic Assistance

Community Solar and Group-Purchase Programs

Solarize Campaigns

Solar Forward advisors can help formulate solarize campaigns, provide customer management solutions as well as outreach and marketing materials. Solar Forward staff have conducted three Solarize campaigns and have advised other regional efforts to spur community solar adoption.

Financial Opportunities and Outreach

C-PACE & RENU loans

Although the cost of going solar has plummeted, many still need to finance their solar adoption. Conventional loans in addition to Colorado Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) loans and Colorado Residential Energy Upgrade exist to help finance systems. We will assist to identify financing options available in your community and help market them.

Hands-on STEM and Vocational Training

Solar in Schools

SEI’s Solar in School curriculum can be incorporated into area high schools to help introduce students to renewable energy and careers in the fast-growing solar industry. Complimenting STEM objectives, this modular learning is adapted from SEI’s industry-leading solar PV technical training.


Communities & SolSmart

Despite solar’s popularity, local barriers like permitting, customer acquisition and a lack of educational awareness can work to stifle solar adoption. These “soft-costs” limit solar but fortunately, many measures can be taken. These efforts can be recognized and in the case of SolSmart, come with additional assistance from the Department of Energy.

Workforce and Economic Development

Rural Solar & Income Qualified Initiatives

While many urban areas have mature solar markets, most of Rural America has been slower to see solar expansion. This is exacerbated by many variables including issues of affordability and accessibility. Our Solar Forward team utilizes solar as a means of economic revitalization.


AmeriCorp VISTA & Volunteer Resourcing

Effective campaigns require clear messaging, sustained outreach and PEOPLE. Capacity-building efforts including local partnerships, past solar adopters, volunteer recruitment and programs like AmeriCorp VISTA can help amplify your communities efforts to transition to renewable energy. They also help create roadmaps for future efforts!

Supporting YOUR communities transition to Renewable Energy

Solar Forward empowers community groups who are interested in growing their solar markets, by providing them with a dedicated adviser to provide consulting on community solar initiatives. The adviser will assist communities every step of the way in the program planning and implementation processes.

Possible Programs

The Solar Forward adviser will empower the selected community group to implement their own programs by providing consulting, guidance, and resources, to help every step of the way in advancing solar PV/renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives such as the following:

  • Solarize and Community Solar group-purchase programs
  • Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) outreach programs
  • Solar in Schools (a hands-on high school program, adapting SEI’s industry-leading solar PV curriculum to provide STEM and vocational training in renewable energy)
  • SolSmart and Solar-Friendly Communities recognition
  • Colorado RENU loan (Colorado Residential Energy Upgrade)
  • Rural economic development initiatives: AgEE, ACRE3, REAP

Our Solarize Toolkit has you covered…from Amps to Z

So your community wants to launch a Solarize group purchase program. You got to get the word out, host education events to explain solar and how the program works, collect event registrations, compile newsletters and help shuttle interested customers to local installers! We have resources that can help! We have conducted 3 successful Solarize campaigns and have advised other community efforts across the state.

We provide a FREE Toolkit complete with educational presentations, marketing material, FAQs, sign-up sheets, event best practices and MORE! Want to learn more? Contact Solar Forward’s Program Manager Mary Marshall at mary@solarenergy.org


Solar Forward Resources


  • How do I finance my solar purchase? Though solar makes financial sense for your home or business by increasing property equity, insulating yourself from rising electricity costs and immediately reducing your energy bills, it is still a big purchase for many. Thankfully there are many ways to finance solar whether conventional home loans or even the innovative C-PACE program or Property Assessed Clean Energy. We compiled a matrix of loan options as an introduction to what is available.

    Finance Matric

  • Organizing a Solarize campaign consists of hosting a series of educational and community events. These events should explain program details and the benefits of solar while also being fun and engaging. The key is to not only sustain interest in your program but motivate people to go solar with Solarize! As part of our Solar Forward Toolkit we have an Event Guide which gives event ideas and guidance.

    Solarize Event Guide

  • As a resource for solar adoption and development in your community, you are going to field all sorts of questions! Thankfully there are many great resources out there including Solar Forward FAQ that you can include in your outreach!

    Solarize FAQs

  • In addition to the Event Guide included in our Solar Forward Toolkit, we have a Solarize Timeline guide to help structure your program over a 6-month campaign.

    Solarize Timeline

Other Resources

  • What is a Solarize program? Solarize is a group purchase model that began in Oregon in 2009 and hence spread to hundreds of communities. The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative put together a playbook to highlight several case studies and provide information for other communities looking to overcome financial and logistical challenges of going solar with models like Solarize.

    The Solarize Guidebook: A community guide to collective purchasing of residential PV Systems

  • To effectively promote solar energy in your community you must understand the local context. The National Association of Regional Councils published a handbook exploring local policies to promote solar, solar in permitting and planning and methods to engage stakeholders

    Regional Solar Deployment Handbook

    In an addendum to this, they shared an impressive resource sheet called the Solar for Economic Development Toolkit, with case studies and guidance for financing solar, implementing programs and understanding solar’s economic impact

    Solar for Economic Development Toolkit

  • How can I encourage renewable energy for local businesses?

    Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy In Colorado

  • As part of the Department of Energy’s SunShot efforts, the Solar Outreach Partnership compiled an exhaustive resource exploring solar’s potential as an economic development tool. It also includes implementation resources for local communities and case studies.

    Solar Outreach Resource Page


Partnering together to move SOLAR FORWARD in your Community

With the help of SEI’s renewable energy expertise and nonprofit educational passion

Community groups interested in managing a local solar initiative to spur renewable energy awareness and solar adoption in their area are welcome to submit a “Community Application,” accessible at the button below. Successful applications can receive free technical and programmatic assistance from SEI’s nonprofit outreach team Solar Forward.

Prospective communities are encouraged to reach out with questions prior to submission. In addition to program goals, your application should identify local variables and opportunities for solar expansion as well as the needed assistance. You are highly encouraged to define your group’s capacity to conduct such campaigns and search possible partners that can work with you.

More information and contact details in the application below.

Apply Here


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Contact Program Manager Mary Marshall at mary@solarenergy.org or 630-607-4352