2023 Sunny Awards: Recognizing Community Solar Projects


Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)




2023 Sunny Awards



National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) enlisted Ensemble to drive market research and engagement activities for the 2023 Sunny Awards. The American-Made Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar (The Sunny Awards) is a prize competition that recognizes community solar projects and programs that employ or develop best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities. The successful methods used by projects and programs recognized by the Sunny Awards will serve as a guide in reaching the goal of the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) to power around five million households through community solar by 2025. This effort is expected to lead to approximately $1 billion in savings on electricity bills. Our aim was to enhance engagement and increase the diversity of participants, driving challenge registrations from community solar projects, through the implementation of effective recruitment and communication strategies that fostered a vibrant and inclusive awards program.

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Our Approach:

Our approach included comprehensive market scanning, personalized email outreach, and impactful social media amplification.

Key Services:

Market Scan:

Through a comprehensive market scan, our team identified 134 relevant projects, programs, and community solar amplifiers. This encompassed a diverse range of entities, including non-profit organizations, for-profit companies, utility companies, and amplifiers.

Email Outreach:

We executed a strategic email outreach strategy to connect with potential applicants and amplifiers identified during the market scan. Email content was personalized based on recipient engagement and organizational context. The outreach was intensified strategically in the final weeks, resulting in an upsurge in engagement on the challenge page.

Social Media Amplification:

Active promotion across social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter increased the Sunny Awards’ visibility. Collaborations with @AMCprizes and key players like Vote Solar and Solar Power World further amplified the program’s reach.

Through our outreach, the Sunny Awards were also amplified across various social media platforms: 

Vote Solar’s Midwest Director shared The Sunny Awards information, retweeted by @Votesolar (32.8k Twitter followers) 


 Solar Power World (67.7k Twitter Followers), shared the Sunny Awards on Twitter





Market Scan Findings:

The market scan yielded a diverse array of projects and entities across the non-profit, for-profit, and utility sectors. Noteworthy entities included Co-op Power, Community Solar Arrays by SunCommon, The Solar for Schools by Interstate Renewable Energy Council, along with a myriad of other organizations. 


Email Outreach:

Throughout the awards, our focused email outreach, particularly during the final two weeks, drove heightened engagement. This initiative led to a 36% surge in teams joining the challenge page within the final two weeks of registration.


Social Media Amplification:

Strategic dissemination across social media platforms,  specifically Twitter and LinkedIn, garnered substantial traction. Notable engagements included retweets by @Votesolar and Solar Power World, significantly enhancing the awards’ visibility.


In conclusion, the 2023 Sunny Awards achieved 181 challenge page followers and a total of 38 registered teams.