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Andrew Burger headshot

Solar Crowdfunding Startup Offers Attractive Returns

By Andrew Burger

Crowdfunding provides the means for innovative startups to raise capital. That includes the solar industry, where grassroots-based startups, such as Mosaic, enable Americans to invest in projects that install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on U.S. homes, schools, businesses and municipal buildings.

Joining their ranks, San Francisco nonprofit RE-volv on Feb. 24 announced it raised over $50,000 for its Solar Seed Fund through its crowdfunding platform. Its third such crowdfunding campaign, RE-volv will use the money to finance installation of a 36-kilowatt solar PV array for the Other Avenues Food Cooperative in San Francisco.

Community-driven solar crowdfunding platforms are creating green jobs, stimulating local economies, and improving local and state government finances. They're also helping assure a better environment for this and future generations by taking action to reduce the risks and costs of climate change, RE-volv Executive Director Andreas Karelas highlighted.

"People-funded renewable energy"

RE-volv describes itself as a “people-funded renewable energy” nonprofit organization. In a press release announcing its latest successful Solar Seed Fund crowdfunding campaign, RE-volv Executive Director Karelas stated:
“People are sick of waiting for leaders to take action on climate change. They want to lead the way in their own communities and RE-volv is giving them a tool to do that. Having completed three successful campaigns, we see that this model is replicable and poised to grow rapidly.”

A community-driven revolving solar seed fund

Raising capital for nonprofits and cooperatives exclusively, RE-volv has raised over $121,000 spread across nearly 900 donations in 38 states and 22 countries over the course of its first three Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns. That investment capital is being used to finance a total 68 kilowatts of community-based solar PV projects.

By raising tax-deductible donations, RE-volv covers the initial costs of a 20-year solar lease. Communities repay RE-volv over time via another lease agreement. Those returns, plus interest, are re-invested by RE-volv in new projects, in effect creating a revolving fund for financing community-based solar energy projects by nonprofits and cooperatives.

Darryl Dea, president of Other Avenues Food Cooperative in San Francisco, commented on the critical role the capital provided by RE-volv played in its efforts to install a solar PV system:

“I’ve been working on this project for eight years, and it’s been difficult to find the right fit for financing this solar project. So when RE-volv came around it was a perfect fit for us because not only do they work with nonprofits and co-ops, but we’re able to contribute to this fund which will further create more solar projects.”

The growing ranks of organizations joining the fossil fuel divestment movement would be well-served by allocating at least some of the resulting capital into community-based solar and renewable energy projects, seed funds, and crowdfunding campaigns, famed environmentalist, author and 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote in the run-up to Global Divestment Day last week.

*Image credits: 1), 2) RE-volv; 3) Global Divestment Day

Andrew Burger headshot

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

Read more stories by Andrew Burger