Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Dayton in Ohio are working with the San Francisco-based nonprofit RE-volv to bring the power and benefits of solar energy to two local nonprofits: Mission of Mary Cooperative in Dayton, and Project Home in Madison.
“Working with RE-volv offers a fantastic way to empower community members to support clean energy while also helping nonprofits do their much-needed work. It’s a win-win,” said Adam Tholen, the project lead for UW-Madison students.
RE-volv is working in areas like Ohio and Wisconsin to help jumpstart the solar industry in swing states with little renewable energy presence. By partnering with nonprofits in these states, RE-volv is tapping into a web of communities involved with these organizations, and educating them about the benefits of clean, renewable solar energy.
An estimated 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. face financial barriers to obtaining solar power, as they do not qualify for solar tax credits or are too small to attract traditional investors. RE-volv’s crowdfunded revolving fund helps bridge this financial gap for organizations that provide valuable public services to vulnerable communities, including homeless shelters, schools, community centers, and houses of worship.
“We want to be the first nonprofit in the City of Dayton to go net-zero, and hopefully light a fire and show people how to utilize renewable, clean energy in the city,” says Michael Schulz, executive director of Mission of Mary Cooperative and one of its Lay Marianist founders.
The Wisconsin and Ohio students join students from over a dozen schools nationwide who have participated in RE-volv’s Solar Ambassador Program, a year-long fellowship for young people who want to help a community-serving organization near their campus go solar. RE-volv trains ambassadors in crowdfunding, solar policy, community engagement, and project management. In turn, the Solar Ambassadors educate their campus communities about solar energy, develop a deep understanding of the energy sector, produce a tangible reduction in carbon emissions, and build a national network of environmental stewards.
“RE-volv’s Solar Ambassador program empowers college students to bring clean energy to their communities,” said Andreas Karelas, RE-volv’s founder and executive director. “America’s young people are looking for opportunities to take action on climate change while getting practical career experience. We’ve created a unique program that allows students to unlock their creativity and passion while becoming tomorrow’s clean energy leaders.”
To date, RE-volv has crowd funded 11 solar projects (150+ kW of capacity) in four states and has signed 17 solar leases in six states. Thanks to the solar installations, 11 nonprofits are expected to save between 15 and 50 percent on their electric bills. In total, they will save more than $1.5 million over the life of their solar energy systems. RE-volv’s solar revolving fund, the Solar Seed Fund, is now worth over $700,000 in future lease payments from these 11 projects. In turn, these payments will be used to finance at least 20 more solar energy projects.