Traverse City

Building Rural Independence through Solar Energy (RISE)

Awarded:: TA Voucher, Participant

Team Information

Team Lead
Dan Worth
Team Lead LinkedIn Profile
View Profile

Project Description

Project / Program Description

We need to find better ways to make the benefits of solar power accessible to everyone, especially low and middle income families that need it the most.

Introducing TC-RISE  - the Traverse City Rural Independence through Solar Energy project (

We are excited to use the Department of Energy Solar In Your Community Challenge to create a model for harnessing the revenue from large, local, utility-scale solar projects. TC-RISE will drive ongoing local, innovative energy efficiency and renewables projects that benefit local families struggling with their electric bills.

This past December, the city of Traverse City, Michigan joined over 20 other innovative cities across the country in committing to sourcing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.

A newly recruited Green Team of community leaders and energy experts are working with the city and community to meet this ambitious goal. The Green Team will start by looking at energy efficiency – finding ways to reduce wasted electricity by upgrading buildings and replacing aging equipment. At the same time, the City will look into investing in renewables to cover the electricity use that it can’t cost effectively reduce.


Even with aggressive energy efficiency measures, the City would need around 5 megawatts of solar– or about 10 million dollars of investment. That’s enough solar to fill up a 40 acre field. An energy developer, the city, and our local utility could agree to a deal and achieve 100% renewable electricity practically overnight.


But there’s a problem with that approach. The folks who need the benefits of solar the most are being left out.

Here's what TC RISE will do to fix that problem.

Since Traverse City made their 100% commitment, a handful of developers have approached the City and TCLP to propose projects. Through TC RISE we will work with the Green Team and potential developers to encourage a community investment component of any energy contract. This will ensure that some of the profits generated are pumped back into our local community to support local non-profits working on reducing electric use and costs for low and middle income residents.

As for our local utilities, they look to be tremendous partners in this effort. Traverse City Light & Power is our municipal utility. They pioneered the state’s first utility scale wind turbine as well as the state’s first Green Fee program to support renewables. Cherryland Electric Cooperative, our local electric co-op, partnered with TCLP on the state’s first community solar project at their headquarters and are now selling shares in a larger community solar project. Through the Green Team, we will work with these utilities to create a project that distributes the benefits of locally developed renewable projects to their low and middle income customers.

Finally, we will work with our region’s electric customers, with an initial focus on the City itself, to build creative models for investing in renewables. Possible solutions include green fees for customers willing and able to pay them, customer aggregation to bring down the cost, and creative financing mechanisms to help pay the upfront costs of going solar. These solutions will be designed to create funding streams to help low and middle-income customers lower their bills and improve their homes and we will make sure that voices from our region’s low and middle income residents are at the table developing these solutions.

The ultimate goal is for TC-RISE to create a series of solar and efficiency success stories that taken together will help rural and urban communities improve their homes, create jobs, and save residents money.

We’ll also build a toolkit for other Michigan communities to adopt their own RISE campaigns. This project will show others that when all parts of communities come together they can capture a much greater value share of large electric projects locally.

If solar is to reach its true potential, it will need to directly benefit more people. The more people it benefits, the faster it will grow.

 Here in Traverse City, we see the city’s 100% clean energy commitment as just the beginning. Help us make a model where clean energy helps an entire community to thrive.