With support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), nonprofit RE-volv has launched a new Web-based crowdfunding platform for community-serving solar projects.
The first three community organizations to benefit include Serenity House in Philadelphia, Riverwest Co-op Grocery & Café in Milwaukee, and Isla Vista Food Cooperative in Santa Barbara, Calif. RE-volv received $25,000 and support from the DOE’s SunShot Initiative to develop the new platform.
RE-volv says the crowdfunding platform raises money to pay for the up-front costs of solar projects for community-serving nonprofits and co-ops. A portion of the savings from each project is paid forward to fund future solar projects, thus creating a self-perpetuating revolving fund.
RE-volv says it has already proven its finance model with three successful projects in the San Francisco Bay Area: the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, the Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland, and the Other Avenues Food Co-op in San Francisco.
“RE-volv.org is a platform where people come together to bring solar power to communities that need it,” comments Andreas Karelas, RE-volv’s executive director and founder. “Clean energy is affordable, practical good for communities, and good for the environment. Our new crowdfunding platform empowers people to take action for clean energy and allows them to see the result: solar on the roof. With lots of clean energy supporters making small donations, we’re able to bring the benefits of solar energy to organizations providing valuable services to their local community.”
Students at Swarthmore College, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of California at Santa Barbara are leading the crowdfunding efforts for the Serenity House, Riverwest Co-op Grocery & Café, and Isla Vista Food Cooperative projects. The students are members of RE-volv’s Solar Ambassador college fellowship program. The program educates college students about solar energy and teaches them to run a successful solar crowdfunding campaign in their local community.
“Crowdfunding with RE-volv in the Riverwest community is the best way to go because the Riverwest community, in general, is really passionate, really energetic and really acts as a community,” says Jacob Ebben, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the marketing lead of their Solar Ambassador team. “And to offer the model of crowdfunding to fund the solar panels here at the co-op really gives everyone the chance to feel empowered.”
Each community-serving organization has signed a 20-year lease agreement with RE-volv for the solar equipment. The lease allows each organization to enjoy the benefits of solar without any up-front cost, thanks to tax-deductible donations crowdfunded on RE-volv’s site. RE-volv owns and operates each system while the organization makes lease payments over time. The nonprofit says it invests the majority of lease payments back into its revolving fund called the Solar Seed Fund to help pay for additional solar installations for other community-serving organizations.
The solar systems are expected to save the three organizations a combined $217,000 over the 20-year period. To find out more or to donate, visit re-volv.org.