College students in South Carolina and Pennsylvania are launching solar crowdfunding campaigns today with the support of the Solar Ambassador program, a training course created by RE-volv, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. The campaigns will bring the benefits of solar energy to two local nonprofits that support underserved populations in the community. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, as part of its 2017 grant to RE-volv, will provide matching funds for a limited time, giving donors the opportunity to double their contributions.
“Climate Change affects every community, regardless of income or demographics, yet we do not see an equitable distribution of solutions,” said Gregory Lopez, Climate Program Director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. “We are pleased to continue supporting RE-volv in bringing affordable solar power to diverse communities across the country.”
The two new projects include the Village of Arts and Humanity in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10804 in Little River, South Carolina. LDF will also apply matching dollars for the remaining funds needed for two campaigns that started last week: Mission of Mary Cooperative in Dayton, Ohio, and Project Home in Madison, Wisconsin.
The four nonprofits that will benefit from the solar campaigns all play critical roles in their communities. The VFW Post 10804 in South Carolina provides needed support for veterans. The Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia provides skills training and rehabilitation programs for formerly incarcerated individuals. The Mission of Mary Cooperative in Dayton is fighting food deserts by teaching community members how to grow their own food. Project Home in Madison provides low-income families with affordable home improvements and energy efficiency retrofits.
“RE-volv’s financial model is a fantastic way to empower community members to support clean energy while also helping a nonprofit increase their ability to support its community. It’s a win-win,” said Adam Tholen, the project lead for Project Home and a student at UW-Madison.
RE-volv’s Solar Ambassador program trains college students from campuses all across America. The program is a year-long fellowship that provides valuable career skills to college students by training them to bring solar to nonprofits in their communities. Students from over a dozen schools have participated in the program.
“RE-volv’s Solar Ambassador program empowers college students to bring clean energy to their communities, and by doing so, we’re training tomorrow’s clean energy leaders” said Andreas Karelas, RE-volv’s founder and Executive Director. “America’s young leaders are looking for opportunities to take action on climate change while getting practical career experience in clean energy. We’ve created a unique program that allows students to channel their creativity and passion into real climate solutions, while teaching them important job skills.”
An estimated 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. face financial barriers to obtaining solar power, as they do not qualify for solar tax credits or are too small to attract traditional investors. These nonprofits miss out on the financial benefits of solar which they could use to further support the communities they serve. RE-volv’s model helps bridge this funding gap for organizations that provide valuable public services to vulnerable communities, including homeless shelters, schools, community centers, and houses of worship.
RE-volv is working with nonprofits where policy barriers make it difficult for solar companies to provide attractive financial options to new customers. By partnering with nonprofits in swing states, RE-volv is tapping into the local communities to educate about the benefits of solar.
To date, RE-volv has has crowdfunded 11 solar projects (150+ kW of capacity) in four states and has signed 17 solar leases in six states. Thanks to the solar installations, these 11 nonprofits are expected to save between 15% and 50% on their electric bills. In total, they will save more than $1.5 million over the life of their solar energy systems. RE-volv’s solar revolving fund, the Solar Seed Fund, is now worth over $700,000 in future lease payments from these 11 projects, payments that will be used to finance at least 20 more solar energy projects.