By Jonathan Deesing
Although the solar energy industry is still relatively young, many solar firms are already pursuing efforts to give back both at home and abroad. Indeed, philanthropy dovetails perfectly with solar power, which provides environmental benefits and opportunities for energy independence for disadvantaged communities.
Here are just a few ways solar companies are turning profits into good and making the world a better place.
Supporting Charitable Efforts at Home Many solar companies choose to give back through traditional means by donating to charities. California-based Green NRG, for example, donates to a local non-profit with every solar unit sold. Clean Solar, located in the Bay Area, has a similar program in which the company donates $150 to charity for every installation – to date Clean Solar has donated over $250,000.
Founded in 2013 as the philanthropy arm of Elon Musk’s firm SolarCity, GivePower is perhaps the most notable solar charity out there. For every megawatt installed by SolarCity, GivePower installs solar arrays on a school in the developing world. To date, GivePower has provided 200,000 people with power in 1,500 schools and 13 countries like Nicaragua and Haiti. The charity’s goals are myriad—touching on everything from economic development to cleaner water—and they believe all of these problems can be addressed with solar power.
Helping Around the Globe GivePower is not wholly unique, however, as many solar companies see solar as an ideal solution for helping to build infrastructure in the developing world. Solar provides sustainable energy for rural communities without pollution or other harmful byproducts.
Sunbridge Solar, a firm based in the Pacific Northwest, makes an effort to give back locally, but the company has also spearheaded humanitarian solar projects everywhere from Nepal to Columbia. Through these efforts, Sunbridge has installed solar arrays on orphanages, schools, and medical clinics, bringing reliable electricity to rural communities.
Similarly, Utah’s Go Solar uses the sale of each solar array to fund loans for solar products in Uganda. Many communities in rural Uganda use kerosene lamps as their primary source of light – these lamps emit harmful gasses that are especially toxic for schoolchildren, who do most of their studying at night. Go Solar provides solar lamps for schoolchildren and other solar products for female entrepreneurs, orphanages, and schools. All told, Go Solar’s Give Solar initiative has touched more than 5,000 households in off-grid communities across Africa.
Yet another successful model, solar lamp company Little Sun is able to sell its lamps in Ethiopia at a steep discount because it sells them at a premium in more affluent areas of the world.
Bolstering Nonprofits Another great way solar companies are giving back is through initiatives that support nonprofits. Solar power can be hugely beneficial in reducing energy costs faced by nonprofits, but unfortunately, it is often outside their price range.
Revision Energy’s solution is to provide power purchase agreements (PPA) that are designed specifically for nonprofits. The concept behind the program is to install solar systems at no upfront cost to nonprofits, simply charging them a fair market rate for their energy until they can eventually buy the system at a discounted price. These PPAs have been used to install solar for municipal buildings, schools, and Habitat for Humanity facilities.
Powering It Forward Solar is the perfect solution for getting power to disadvantaged and off-grid communities. Unlike fossil fuels, solar power doesn’t require an imported fuel source, and it emits no pollution. As solar panels become increasingly efficient, more communities will look to solar to not only provide clean energy, but to also save money. And solar companies will be right there to help.
Jonathan Deesing is a Solar Power Specialist with SolarPowerAuthority.com. When he's not studying up on new solar tech, you can find him in the backcountry putting it to the test.
Image credit: Ken Bosma