Our annual Project of the Year Awards are a celebration of the solar industry. The hard work of construction teams and installers, the creativity of engineers, the leadership of developers and owners and the dedication of so many local businesses and nonprofits are all on display.
The Project of the Year Awards are also a reminder of what more can be done. How a supportive policy or forward-thinking municipality can make all the difference not just for the distributed generation of electricity, but for bringing about social justice and building a new, local workforce.
The Project of the Year Awards are also … awards! We sift through submissions (over 70 this year), set a field of nominees for an online vote and see which projects earn the most buzz and support from solar professionals. Those projects are named winners, earning this moment in the spotlight in the magazine, our website and in special videos on our YouTube page. Congrats to all of this year’s winners and thanks to everyone who nominated a project, voted and/or shared it on social media. And thanks to Fortress Power for sponsoring this year’s awards.
Without further ado, here are Solar Builder’s Projects of the Year for 2021. Below are video interviews with each winner and links to features from the magazine. If you missed out on the Projects of the Year issue of the magazine, well, you missed out! Don’t let it happen again (subscribe here for free – print, digital or both)
C&I Ground-Mount Solar Project of the Year
Buckhorn Children & Family Services
Buckhorn, Ky. | 20.48 kW
The installation of a 20-kW ground-mounted solar array, taken within the scope of the energy market at-large, is pretty ho-hum. The Buckhorn Children & Family Services solar project though — our C&I Ground-Mount Project of the Year — shows the value of zooming in on small-scale distributed solar projects and measuring impact beyond MWh and grid services. With the right people involved, one ho-hum 20-kW system can help guide local policy, provide job training and generally showcase solar as a viable alternative to coal in a rural area, in which everyone is still skeptical it will work.
C&I Rooftop Solar Project of the Year
Flemington Area Food Pantry
Hunterdon County, N.J. | 33 kW
Food pantries are a great candidate for solar. They have one giant refrigeration load to offset, and, of course, every dollar saved goes right back to feeding those in need. Unfortunately, being a great candidate isn’t enough. Solar PV systems are expensive, and interconnecting C&I-sized systems can be annoyingly complex. Wrangling funding and/or volunteers takes time and effort. Luckily, those practical concerns do not faze motivated high school students, like Evan Kuster at North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey, Class of 2022, who initiated our C&I Rooftop Project of the Year.
Solar + Storage Project of the Year
Chub Cay Microgrid
Berry Islands, Bahamas | 4-MW PV + 10-MWh battery
Few sites on the planet represent the intersection between an island, ocean and energy resources required to operate a resort — in a safe and environmentally friendly way — more than our Solar + Storage Project of the Year, the Chub Cay Microgrid. The project required designing both the PV field and battery storage system to withstand the high salinity and hurricane-prone location 1,000 feet from the ocean.
“It is the biggest and most resilient microgrid of its kind in the Bahamas and likely the Caribbean,” says Justin Cunningham, general manager of Compass Power. “Wind rating, longevity, output and storage capacity, the Chub Cay project moves boundaries when it comes to what can be done with renewable energy-driven microgrids.”
Community Solar Project of the Year
Duke Realty Portfolio
New Jersey | 11 MW
Our Community Solar Project of the Year, as decided by the readers of Solar Builder, highlights the power of progressive public policy to encourage renewable energy projects that are truly beneficial to the community, in terms of energy, equity and jobs.
Residential Solar Project of the Year
Pai Pai Families
Santa Catarina, Baja California, Mexico | 5.7 kW
Our Projects of the Year typically highlight an innovation, economic impact or construction challenge overcome. The Residential Project of the Year for 2021 is a reminder how powerful the absolute basics of solar power can be. Just pairing one panel with one inverter and one battery can change lives. GRID Alternatives needs no such reminder because helping disadvantaged communities access affordable renewable energy is what it does.
Utility-Scale Solar Project of the Year
Rockport Maces Pond
Rockport, Maine | 4.2 MW
Background: The project, developed by BlueWave, owned and operated by Navisun, is an agrivoltaic community solar project constructed over a wild blueberry farm. The project aims not only to deliver clean energy (and energy savings) to the local community as a community solar farm but also to improve the yield of the wild blueberry crop on site as part of the actual farm.
Editor’s Choice Winners
Welcome to the 4th annual Solar Builder Editor’s Choice Awards! We are not solar pros out in field, but we do write about dozens of solar projects every week at solarbuildermag.com. We have a feel for what’s fairly routine and what’s unique or notable. The following projects were nominated for our Project of the Year Awards, didn’t win the popular vote, but caught our collective editorial eye — everything from notable missions, subtly cool problem-solving, community impact or just plain jaw-dropping execution.
- Best Build: American Kings | Lemoore, Calif. | 170 MWdc
- Best Reuse of Land: Salvage Yard | Morrisville, Vt. | 3.3 MW
- Problem Solving: Harvey Milk SFO Terminal | San Francisco | 1.34 MW
- Best Partnership: Sun Link Transportation Center | Tucson, Ariz. | 163 kW
- Coolest Carport: Maryknoll | Ossining, N.Y. | 873 kW
- Community Standout: Carney Seeding | Nashville | 7 kW
Have you checked out our YouTube page?
We have a ton video interviews and additional content on our YouTube page. Recently we debuted Power Forward! -- a collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics as well as best practices / trends for running a solar business today.
Our longer running side project is The Pitch -- in which we have awkward discussions with solar manufacturers and suppliers about their new technology and ideas so that you don't have to. We discuss everything from residential rail-less deck attaching and home solar financing to large-scale energy storage value stacking and utility-driven new home solar + storage microgrids.