The grassroots are always greener: Community-based organizations as innovators of shared solar energy in the United States

Matthew Grimley, Vivek Shastry, Dilge Güldehen Kânoğlu-Özkan, Erica Blevins, Ariane L. Beck, Gabriel Chan, Varun Rai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Community-based organizations (CBOs) play important roles in the energy transition between niches, grassroots innovations, and established regimes. However, the motivations of CBOs to engage in energy transitions, and the functions they can perform within energy transitions, are under-studied. Using community shared solar (CSS) as a case study, we introduce theories of organizational innovation to explain why and how CBOs participate to shape energy transitions. We conduct two series of semi-structured interviews with CBOs: CBOs that have engaged in CSS projects in different ways across the United States and CBOs based in Texas that have not yet engaged in the energy transition but show the potential to engage in the future. We interpret the interviews by highlighting CBO pathways for “activation.” We explain CBO activation with a framework of strategic, simple, and informal niches, in which CBOs can substitute for or complement top-down energy policies and normative energy-transition goals. We find that CBOs engage in the energy transition mainly through self-determined functions that generate many non-energy, organizational and societal benefits. By understanding these functions of CBOs, we highlight the need for further actions that, in supporting organizational innovation, can allow more CBO participation in the energy transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102628
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partially supported by the Mitchell Foundation in Austin, Texas and the Meadows Foundation in Dallas, Texas.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Community solar
  • Community-based organization
  • Energy transition
  • Niches
  • Organizational innovation
  • Social innovation


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