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Nonprofit Solar Projects + CollectivePACE: Insights from Tim Olson

We recently teamed up with our clean energy financing partner, Greenworks Lending, for our webinar, The Key to Solar Recovery & Closing Sales – Easy $0 Down Financing for Nonprofits, to discuss how to fund a solar project through CollectivePACE.

Tim Olson, Associate Director of Solar and Storage at Greenworks Lending, gave us the lowdown on the benefits of working with the combined expertise of the two companies and how the unique funding vehicle CollectivePACE can help contractors sell to nonprofits.

Can you tell us about Greenworks Lending?

Greenworks Lending is the nation’s leading provider of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing. Led by several of the industry’s founding policy developers and standard-setters, the company was founded in 2015 with the goal of bringing C-PACE financing to building owners across the country. Greenworks has grown rapidly over the last 5 years and has provided financing to hundreds of commercial properties and is active in 22 states. Greenworks completed the industry’s first rated securitization in 2017 and completed a second securitization in December 2018. 

What do you see as the particular advantages of CollectivePACE?

CollectivePACE is a powerful and streamlined financing tool for nonprofits to fund solar and energy efficiency building improvements. By combining the long-term, fixed rate, 100% financing of C-PACE with CollectiveSun’s non-profit solar discount, a solar installation can be cash flow positive from day one for a nonprofit entity. These savings can then go toward supporting the mission of the nonprofit while also decreasing their carbon footprint. It’s a win-win that helps get these projects across the finish line. 

What is CollectivePACE and how can it help solar contractors?

CollectivePACE is a partnership between Greenworks Lending and CollectiveSun that provides 100% up-front financing for a solar system through C-PACE combined with a 12%+ tax equity discount provided by CollectiveSun. Many nonprofits don’t have the cash to pay for a solar system and cannot take advantage of the federal solar tax credit or depreciation benefits. A solar contractor can now go to that nonprofit and offer them a way to get the solar installation without any capital expenditure, and they can still see a portion of the benefits of the tax credit through the discount. This opens up a large set of potential customers that otherwise would not be able to go solar. 

For what kinds of projects does CollectivePACE work best?

Any nonprofit that owns its building and is interested in installing solar is a potential CollectivePACE customer. CollectivePACE can also finance a new roof, HVAC replacement, new windows, lighting and more; so customers looking to make upgrades to an aging building are great candidates for CollectivePACE projects. They must also be in a C-PACE enabled jurisdiction so it’s always useful to run the address of a potential project by Greenworks or CollectiveSun early in the process. If the jurisdiction hasn’t adopted C-PACE yet we can work with the owner and the local government to get it opted-in. 

What are other advantages of working with CollectivePACE, that may not be apparent on the surface?

Greenworks Lending and CollectiveSun have developed a strong partnership with the goal of creating a streamlined way to finance solar for nonprofits. The team can quickly help contractors review potential projects, present the product to property owners, collect the necessary documents, and close on the financing in a way that helps get projects built and leaves customers happy. 

How can CollectivePACE help contractors sell to nonprofits?

CollectivePACE can convert a large segment of property owners across the country facing unique obstacles to installing solar. The Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that there are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, owning more than $5 trillion in assets – this is a huge potential customer base. These nonprofits often don’t have the cash to pay for a system upfront, can’t qualify for attractive traditional financing, and can’t monetize the lucrative tax incentives. Through CollectivePACE we don’t look at credit scores, we don’t require personal guarantees, and we finance 100% of the hard and soft costs of a project. Not only is there $0 due upfront from the nonprofit, but often there are 6-24 months before they even have to make their first payment. Presenting this solution can quickly turn a no into a yes for solar contractors.

“By combining the long-term, fixed rate, 100% financing of C-PACE with CollectiveSun’s non-profit solar discount, a solar installation can be cash flow positive from day one for a nonprofit entity.”

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