Solar nonprofit RE-volv has announced that it will receive a $120,000 award from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, to expand access to affordable solar energy for nonprofit organizations around the country. The partnership, announced this week, will provide match funding for RE-volv’s unique crowdfunding platform, allowing donors the opportunity to double their contributions with the support of academy-award winner Leonardo DiCaprio.
The award is part of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s biggest-ever portfolio of grants, dedicating $20 million to organizations with innovative solutions to combat climate change.
RE-volv supports solar energy projects for nonprofits that lack access to financing options. An estimated 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. face financial barriers to obtaining solar power, because they do not qualify for solar tax credits or are too small to attract traditional investors. RE-volv bridges this funding gap for organizations that provide valuable public services to vulnerable communities, including homeless shelters, schools, community centers, and houses of worship. This is the largest grant to date for RE-volv, a two-time awardee of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.
“RE-volv is working to make sure that the benefits of solar can reach everyone, including nonprofit organizations and the people they serve,” said Andreas Karelas, Executive Director of RE-volv. “Thanks to this generous grant from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, RE-volv will be able to scale its impact and bring solar to even more nonprofits around the country.”
RE-volv’s unique crowdfunding platform is the first to employ a revolving fund. Donors select a specific nonprofit to support and, as the project pays back dividends through a solar lease agreement, the user can then reinvest in new solar projects through the RE-volv platform. This pay-it-forward model helps to accelerate solar energy deployment in local communities while keeping donors engaged in solar projects.
“The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is excited to support RE-volv,” said Gregory Lopez, Climate Program Director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. “Not only is their work important in deploying solar energy and reducing greenhouse gasses, their unique model provides an introduction of accessible, renewable energy to new communities.”
To date, RE-volv has raised over $300,000 from over 1,000 people in 22 countries. It has crowdfunded ten solar projects (150 kW of capacity) in four states, include Harbor House in Oakland, which serves refugee, immigrant, and low-income families with after-school programs and ESL classes, and Morris Chapel Baptist Church, the oldest African American Church in Philadelphia. Thanks to the solar projects, grantees are expected to save between 15 and 40 percent on their electric bills. In total, these ten nonprofits 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 $650,000 in future lease payments from these ten projects – payments which will be used to finance at least 20 more solar energy projects.
In addition to financing projects, RE-volv trains college students and community volunteers to become Solar Ambassadors, who in turn lead the on the ground efforts to deploy solar. RE-volv has educated 10,000 people about solar energy through training, outreach, and more than 100 events.