Story by Sara Carbone, CollectiveSun Content Marketing Manager
As part of our mission to bring solar to as many nonprofits as possible, CollectiveSun has partnered with a number of wonderful, mission-driven organizations over the years. Companies like Greenworks Lending, foremost provider of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy financing in the US, and EnergySage, the leading American online solar marketplace, are just two such partners that have helped us bring the power and savings of solar to those organizations that do so much for our communities.
To spotlight these strategic partners and the work they do with us we created a new article series entitled Partner Spotlight. We kicked things off by interviewing Generation180, a national nonprofit that provides resources to school and community members to help make solar a reality at their educational institutions. We spoke with Program Director Tish Tablan and Program Associate Jamie Wertz about Generation180’s mission, programming, future goals and relationship with CollectiveSun.
We’d like to begin by asking you to share the big idea behind Generation180.
Generation180’s founding in 2016 was prompted by a growing realization that we are at a tipping point in America’s transition to clean energy. The convergence of macro trends across the power, commercial, finance, and political sectors, as well as the arrival of affordable rooftop solar power and electric vehicles to the mass market, have made it possible for our generation to fundamentally change our direction. Generation180 is focused on the role that individuals can play in dramatically accelerating the arrival of a 100% clean energy future. The organization’s name states our vision that we—all of us alive today—are the generation that will make a 180-degree turn away from fossil fuels. Read more about “The Big Idea” behind our organization’s work.
How is Generation180 working to accelerate the arrival of a 100% clean energy future?
Generation180 is a national nonprofit working to inspire and equip people to take action on clean energy. We’re telling a new energy story that is less about the doom and gloom of a warming planet and more about all the potential for, and momentum toward, a cleaner, healthier and more equitable energy future—and how they can be a part of it. Generation180 is focusing on identity-shaping solutions—solar and electric vehicles (EVs) – because they lead to direct decarbonization, are visible and culturally relevant, and target two of the largest sources of carbon emissions: buildings and transportation.
“ The impact of solar at schools extends far beyond the campus boundaries by normalizing clean energy and inspiring a ripple effect of solar adoption among community members and neighboring school districts. “
Why is Generation180 focused on schools and clean energy?
There is a school in every community, and schools can play a leading role in the transition to clean energy across the country. The impact of solar at schools extends far beyond the campus boundaries by normalizing clean energy and inspiring a ripple effect of solar adoption among community members and neighboring school districts.
Generation180’s Solar For All Schools campaign is working toward a future in which all of our schools are completely powered by clean energy. We estimate that if all K-12 school buildings in the country were powered by clean energy, the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would be equivalent to closing 18 coal-fired power plants.
Generation180 is leading a national movement of schools that are switching to solar and related clean energy technologies (such as battery storage and electric school buses), which provides the benefits of cutting carbon emissions, reducing school energy costs, enhancing hands-on learning and career training, and fostering healthier communities for all.
Can you explain how you are helping schools go solar?
We work to achieve our vision of Solar For All Schools in the following ways:
- Inspire a brighter future by sharing success stories and best practices from schools and districts around the country that have flipped the switch to clean energy.
- Map the solar schools movement by collecting data on solar adoption by schools, tracking the trends, and identifying opportunities for growth.
- Provide a library of resources for going solar that includes a How-To Guide for Schools Going Solar, a grassroots organizing Campaign Toolkit, and a Help Desk with answers to frequently asked questions and personalized assistance.
- Empower educational leaders in our Clean Energy School Leaders Network to share their knowledge and experience with peers and inspire others to follow their lead.
- Advocate for policies that expand equitable access to solar for all schools, regardless of their size and budget.
What are some tips or advice you could give to someone trying to advocate for renewable energy in their schools and/or communities?
Anyone can be the spark to bring solar to their school or community–you don’t have to be an energy expert! Check out our video about a seventh-grader from Bozeman, Montana who led a campaign and raised the funds for her middle school to go solar.
We have the resources for you to get started. Our Solar Schools Campaign Toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for parents, students, and community members interested in organizing a solar schools campaign. We also developed a Solar Schools Help Desk, a resource where you can get answers to common questions, find resources available in your state, or ask our team a specific question. You can also explore our interactive map of solar schools across the country to find inspiration from a school near you that has already flipped the switch.
How does your work overlap with the work of CollectiveSun?
We know that the upfront costs of going solar is a big barrier for school districts, particularly in under-resourced communities. Our research has found that 80% of the solar capacity installed at nationwide K-12 schools was funded by third-party ownership, typically through a lease or power purchase agreement in which the upfront capital costs of the solar installation is paid for by someone else. What this statistic tells us is that schools need access to more options for financing their transition to clean energy, especially ones that don’t require schools to find funds in their constrained budgets.
Generation180 is expanding equitable access to solar by educating school districts about different financing options and advocating for state and utility policies that enable school districts to utilize third-party ownership. Generation180 was part of a coalition in Virginia that successfully expanded access to this financing mechanism statewide, and it is working with partners in Florida to do the same. Our education and advocacy efforts support the work of CollectiveSun, which helps nonprofits and schools leverage the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) and share in the savings. In states and utility territories where third-party ownership is allowed, CollectiveSun monetizes the ITC to help these organizations go solar with a 12% or more discount on the cost of the installation.
Looking forward, what are Generation180’s long-term goals?
This is a decisive decade. We must dramatically accelerate the shift to clean energy in the next 10 years to prevent irreversible harm caused by rising global temperatures. Momentum is on our side. We now have the technology and public support needed to spur a broad cultural shift toward 100% clean energy, so we’re hoping to engage as many individuals as we can in the next ten years to take action and create an equitable, safe, and healthy future powered by clean energy.
Generation180 is a non-profit working to inspire and equip people to take action on clean energy.
Generation180’s founding was prompted by a growing realization that we are at a tipping pointin America’s transition to clean energy. The convergence of macro trends across the power, commercial, finance, and political sectors, as well as the arrival of rooftop solar power and electric vehicles to the mass market, have made it possible for our generation to fundamentally change our direction. We can now dramatically accelerate the arrival of a 100% clean energy future. Generation180 has a Joint Plan of Work with Virginia Organizing, a 501c3 non-profit organization that accepts grants and donations on behalf of Generation180.