Innovative Funding for Solar Power for Non-Profits

An innovative new method of funding for solar power for non-profits in some states, including Washington, is to partner with an organization that leverages funds invested by donor advised funds (DAFs) and impact investors as well as foundations to pay for the installation.  One example is RE-volv, which provides access to solar energy for nonprofits that serve disadvantaged communities and otherwise could not go solar. It enables the non-profits to go solar with no up-front payment and to save an estimated 15 percent on their electricity bills. The non-profit leases the solar installation for 20 years and makes lease payments to RE-volv, with the savings on electricity bills expected to cover the lease payments and still generate savings. The investor benefits through a financial return on their funds. Since its founding in 2011, RE-volv has funded 52 solar projects in 14 states that are contracted for 14 megawatts and that have avoided 95 tons of CO2 emissions.

Along with installing the solar system, RE-volv trains college students to become Solar Ambassadors, who spearhead the solar project for a local community-serving nonprofit and lead an educational campaign to spread solar and renewable energy education on their campus.

In Washington, Gonzaga University’s Gonzaga Sustainable Energy (GSE) program partnered with RE-volv to bring solar power to Transitions, a nonprofit that works to end poverty and homelessness for women and children in Spokane. Transitions expects that it will save more than $116,000 through the program. “Since (solar) energy cost is a lot lower, that money that they’re saving can be put towards their own programs,” said Jess Vazquez, a vice president of GSE and a coordinator with RE-volv.” They [can] spend more on people.” “The reason why RE-volv focuses on nonprofits is that nonprofits don’t get that tax incentive for having solar on their buildings that normal people do,” GSE President Theo Labay explained.

While DAFs and other impact investors interested in solar power have more often invested in start-ups with innovative solutions for solar power, new players such as RE-volv are enabling DAFs to invest in solar power in a new way and offering non-profits a new model to fund their solar installations.



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