Fostering Community Power: A New Pay It Forward Model for Solar

People can now help build solar energy projects in a brand new way. RE-volv, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, has developed a revolving fund to finance solar projects for community centers that raises up-front costs by crowdfunding donations.

RE-volv just finished its second solar energy project, a 22-kW installation at the Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland.  Its first project, completed in June, was a 10-kW system at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley. RE-volv works with community-serving nonprofits and cooperatives.

We’ve seen a number of crowdfunding solar models arise in the last three years, which is a great development for the industry.  It gives people the ability to put their dollars directly into driving solar energy at the community level, either to earn a return or as a donation.

RE-volv is the first initiative to start a revolving fund to finance solar energy projects for community centers here in the U.S. The idea is pretty simple.  Community centers save money on their electricity bill while paying back the upfront costs and a small amount of interest over time through a 20-year solar lease.  The lease payments are reinvested into additional solar projects, allowing the revolving fund to grow perpetually.

The potential of the fund is massive.  Once approximately 100 systems are installed, the revolving fund will reinvest the collective lease payments to build a new system each month.  Each new system brings in more lease revenues, allowing the fund to grow at an ever accelerating rate.

The idea is that if we can empower people to support solar through crowdfunding, and we can educate members of the communities we serve about its benefits, we can raise awareness across the country and hopefully change the tone of the national conversation around solar energy.

Historians will look back at this decade as the moment when solar became mainstream. The economics are here.  Now we have to give people the tools to drive it on their own, allow them to benefit from it directly, and show them what it looks like right in their neighborhood.

Find out more about RE-volv here.

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Andreas Karelas is a dedicated renewable energy advocate with over ten years of environmental and renewable energy experience. Andreas incorporated RE-volv as a nonprofit organization in February 2011. He is a 2013 Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow.

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