Targeting One of the Most Underserved Sectors in the Solar Market: Nonprofits


As part of a trend to help nonprofits go solar, CollectiveSun and Baker Electric help the TERI Marshall House in Vista, California save on energy expenses with an 11.5kW rooftop solar array. The system will offset about 95% of the residence’s electrical usage, saving TERI approximately $77,000 over the system’s 25-year life. 

2013 has been a record-shattering year for solar PV in the United States. An impressive 930MW of solar PV was installed in the U.S. in Q3 2013, representing the second largest quarter in the history of the nation’s solar market. Last week, SEIA and GTM reported that there is now 10,250 MW of solar energy in the U.S. 

Many large and small businesses, homeowners, schools and universities, and municipal buildings have already made the smart move to go solar — and the numbers keep increasing. There is a segment of the solar market, however, that is often being forgotten: nonprofits. 

More nonprofit organizations these days are installing solar PV. Recent examples are the San Angelo Museum in Texas and nine additional nonprofits in the state. Nevertheless, “the nonprofit category is one of the most underserved sectors in the solar market,” says Andrew Berlin, Residential Sales Manager at Baker Electric Solar.

Why are nonprofits so underserved in the solar market? The answer is often financing issues. Nonprofits often lack the financial resources required to acquire a solar array. In addition, they can’t take advantage of tax credits. So they are likely to be dependent on donations and/or low-interest financing programs if they want to make the move to solar. 

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations addressing this issue. Everybody Solar, for example, helps nonprofits go solar so they can spend more of their funds serving their communities. RE-volv is building a revolving fund to put solar on nonprofit community centers. Both these organizations rely on crowdfunding through donations.

Other models are also emerging to help nonprofits go solar. In October this year, the Sustainable Energy Fund introduced its Sustainable Energy Finance program, available to not-for-profit and governmental entities to complete energy-efficiency or renewable energy projects up to $90,000. Other companies providing financing for solar systems for nonprofits include the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club and CollectiveSun.

The Sun Club is a program that enables Green Mountain Energy’s customers and employees to contribute funds to nonprofits to install solar energy and provide renewable energy education. The program has donated over $2.3 million and 600 kilowatts of solar power to more than 50 nonprofits since 2002.

CollectiveSun also tries to increase widespread solar adoption among nonprofits. The company works exclusively with nonprofit organizations to help finance solar power projects. Its platform brings nonprofits, investors, and solar installers together to help make solar a viable option for nonprofits. CollectiveSun provides solar investment opportunities to investors who get paid back in full with annual principal and interest payments over a 10-year period.

The company’s most recent financing project was the nonprofit TERI Marshall House in Vista, California. With $44,577 of funding collected by CollectiveSun, Baker Electric Solar helped the TERI house to save on energy expenses with the installation of an 11.5kW rooftop solar power system. The system will offset approximately 95% of the residence’s electrical usage. Based on current electricity rates, TERI will realize about $77,000 in savings over the 25-year life of the system. 

The solar array features 46 REC 250 solar panels with two Sunny Boy 5000 inverters. Baker Electric Solar will use Quick Mount PV to mount the solar panels on the residence’s composite shingle roof.

Founded in 1980, TERI’s mission is to change the way the world views and helps individuals touched by autism and special needs. Its goal is to improve the quality of life for children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities. TERI Inc. specializes in serving individuals who have needs that cannot be met by other existing programs. As a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) California Corporation, the agency serves more than 600 individuals and relies on donations and community support. 

“CollectiveSun’s business model maximizes a nonprofit’s benefits and helps them overcome the challenges of going solar. We’re excited about being the installer of choice for TERI, a community nonprofit we’ve believed in from the start. Our Baker team provided an in-kind donation for their electrical work when they moved into their current facility,” commented Andrew Berlin.

“We are proud to congratulate TERI on the demonstration of their leadership in the community by embracing solar power,” added Lee Barken, CollectiveSun’s Chief Community Officer. “Solar energy is a great way to reduce operating expenses by lowering energy bills. In addition, utilizing the CollectiveSun platform helps TERI engage their community in new and exciting ways.”