RE-volv is changing the way communities invest in renewable energy. Founded on the belief that everyone should have access to clean energy, the nonprofit has created a means for people to take action. Re-volv organizes crowdfunding campaigns to enable the development of solar projects for other nonprofits that serve local communities.
Using a pay-it-forward model they call the “Solar Seed Fund,” the company raises money to allow local nonprofits to save 15 percent or more on their electric bills by going solar. The organizations then repay RE-volv for the loan in the form of a portfolio credit, whether it be a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or a solar lease. These payments are then invested in more solar projects in communities across the nation, creating a revolving fund that enables more and more solar energy development.
To date, RE-volv has raised nearly $530,000 from more than 2,320 donors to complete a total of 17 solar projects. Four campaigns are currently in progress:
- East End Community Services, a youth and family center in Dayton, Ohio
- Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative, offering low-rent student housing in California
- Primates Inc., a monkey sanctuary in Westfield, Wisconsin
- Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 10420 in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Making It Easier for Nonprofits to Go Solar
It is generally more difficult for nonprofits to go solar because the tax credits are of little-to-no use. Therefore, these organizations have to budget accordingly and factor the up-front costs into their operating budget. RE-volv recognizes the need for assistance, and has worked to expand its San Francisco base to the Midwest and even the East Coast.
The crowdfunded nonprofit relies on donors who make tax-deductible donations. RE-volv doesn’t give the solar arrays to the nonprofits outright, but instead it the systems for 20-or-so years. When this lease is up, the ownership transfers to the respective nonprofit. Throughout the duration of the lease, RE-volv is responsible for any repairs and maintenance needed on the solar system. Non-profits enjoy the discount on their electrical bills and a structured increase of less than 3 percent a year over the lifetime of the lease or PPA.
The revenue generated from the solar lease is combined with donations and used to fund other solar projects. On average, the return on investment is between 8 and 12 percent. The lease revenue is what makes RE-volv’s model so unique. Aside from promoting the widespread use of renewable energy, the company is also offering the means for sustainable funding.
Dedicated to Education
Aside from offering nonprofits a means to go solar, RE-volv is also dedicated to public education and community empowerment. For the fifth year, RE-volv held its annual “Solar Education Week” in the week leading up to Earth Day. The initiative features a number of different events across the country and works in partnership with other solar organizations and advocacy groups. Designed to teach the public about transitioning to a clean energy economy, the educational week gives communities tangible steps to make the shift.
Aside from Solar Education Week, RE-volv also runs a Solar Ambassador Program. This yearlong fellowship offers career skills training to college students by training them on how to bring solar to nonprofits in their own communities via crowdfunding. Fellows learn valuable experience in clean energy and project management while using creative approaches to solve climate issues.
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