This month CollectiveSun participated in a webinar to share how nonprofit organizations that own their own buildings can get financing to go solar. The webinar, entitled Solar Power for Nonprofits: How to Combine Solar + Federal Investment Tax Credit to Benefit Your Budget and the Environment, was hosted by Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and featured presenters involved in all stages of going solar. The presentation included a call to action for communities of faith, a church case study, and discussions about technical considerations and financing.
Perspective From An Industry Veteran
Wei-Tai Kwak, Past President of Sustainable Lafayette and a ten year veteran of the solar industry, kicked off the webinar by providing background as to why it is ideal for nonprofits to go solar. He talked about the changes to the industry in the last decade that saw the price of solar decline by 70% and the number of solar installations grow tenfold. Kwak also described how more solar financing companies are offering financing options to nonprofits.
He finished up by noting that now was the time to take advantage of the 26% federal tax credit, as it would be declining in amount over the next two years.
Call to Action for Communities of Faith
Liore Milgrom-Gartner of California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL) continued the presentation with a call to action for houses of worship. She described faith communities as having a unique response to the climate crisis given that they have both a moral calling to care for their neighbors and a drive to “alter the future trajectory” of the environment.
Milgrom-Gartner talked about CIPL’s assistance in pushing for California’s 1 million solar installations and described CIPL’s mission to serve as a resource and guide for member congregations interested in going solar.
A House of Worship Proud to Go Solar
Pastor Dan Senter went on to discuss the impact of a solar system installation on his church, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (OSLC), located in Lafayette, California. Pastor Dan stated, “what really grounds people in their spiritual journey is their relationship to the environment. To work on a project that puts something tangible on the roof of our facility, that links to people’s spiritual passions and their sense of how to collaboratively do something for the environment really creates a synergy and energy in the congregation.”
He talked about “the intangibles” that come with a project like solar: people’s pride, passion, and desire to share and celebrate it.
The details about the system installation at OSLC were provided by the church treasurer, Chris House. OSLC is a 29,500 sq foot facility that sits on 5 acres and hosts multiple nonprofits on site including a school. They use 76,000 kWh of electricity each year, and their annual electric bill totaled $17,000.
House talked about how he and the executive committee at the church dialed in on the economic impact of going solar. He emphasized the fact that a particular benefit was that the budgets of all of the non-profit organizations that share the church facility are positively impacted by the solar installation. House shared several slides that broke down their process for going solar and the system’s design and financing.
The Technical Angle
Eric Nyman of Berkley, California based solar contractor Sun Light and Power (SLP), whose company installed the OSLC solar system, provided an overview of the key technical issues involved with going solar. These include preliminary considerations like the material and condition of the roof of the building, options for a ground mount or canopy installation, and the timing of other construction projects.
Nyman described SLP’s goals in the early stages of the project as providing guidance and answers to critical questions in order to create a system that maximizes economic benefit. He also discussed installation design criteria such as electrical usage history, issues around shading, and orientation of the system.
He then walked through the installation process and discussed common roadblocks encountered during the assessment process. Nyman finished up his discussion by providing information about his company.
Financing for Nonprofits
The last presentation section of the webinar was rounded out by Matt Brennan of CollectiveSun. Brennan described CollectiveSun’s unique offering that allows 501c3 organizations to take advantage of the federal tax credit when installing a solar system. He discussed how CollectiveSun provides the 12% of the cost of the installation via the tax credit while assisting with a number of funding options to the nonprofit for the remaining 88%, including traditional and mission aligned traditional lenders, PACE loans, cash reserves, donations, and CrowdLending.
The webinar wrapped up with a Q&A with audience members which included discussions of topics like the impact of certain weather conditions on installations, earning credit for overproduction of energy from a solar system and additional details about CollectiveSun’s financing.
Note: A link to the webinar video is available here.
By Sara Carbone