Catalyzing community-led solar development by enabling cooperative behavior: Insights from an experimental game in the United States

Bronson Ferster, Jeffrey R. S Brownson, Gretchen A. Macht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This work presents an empirically tested method to initiate community solar development by enabling cooperative behavior among groups of stakeholders. Shared solar represents only a fraction of distributed photovoltaic generation despite advantages over other distributed solar models. A framework that addresses the inherent characteristics of community solar would increase development. In this work, a non-cooperative game modeled stakeholders’ codependent decision between models of solar development, and it served as the control experiment with unfacilitated communication. An experimental “catalyst” for onboarding community solar tested the influence of facilitated cooperation on project development. In the experiment, stakeholders were engaged through demonstrated practices that lead to cooperative behavior. Interviews conducted with project leads from subsequent community-led solar projects qualitatively assessed the catalyst, and a cooperative game model measured the influence of the catalyst quantitatively. The control game revealed a rational agent preferred a low-utility independent-solar strategy to a higher-utility cooperative-solar strategy in the locale (20% difference in welfare). This result emphasized the need for an intra-active force (i.e., the proposed catalyst) to reach the most economically efficient outcomes. Efforts to facilitate cooperative behavior catalyzed two community-led solar projects in a locale previously void of community solar. The experimental catalyst was the dominant player for onboarding community solar, responsible for 53% of the effective onboarding in the region. Additionally, the catalyzed solar projects experienced an increase in onboarding effectiveness by a factor of two-to-three. The community solar catalyst can be applied in other locales to overcome barriers inhibiting shared solar development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101408
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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