As more and more homeowners and businesses go solar, we must increase the accessibility of solar financing to reach more groups of people. For example, while nonprofits aren't able to directly benefit from the investment tax credit (ITC) or other tax-based solar incentives, there are still companies that can help them maximize their solar savings. CollectiveSun is one such company – they work exclusively with nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations to help make solar more financially accessible, providing a 12 percent discount on solar on projects 50 kilowatts (kW) or greater. We sat down with CollectiveSun to learn more about their company and its financial offerings.
[ES] Tell us more about CollectiveSun – what's the background of your company? When and why were you founded? Where are you located?
[CS] CollectiveSun was founded in 2011 on the principle that all nonprofits should have access to clean, affordable renewable energy. Our primary office is located in San Diego, CA, and we have team members located in San Francisco, CA, Louisville, KY, and Germany.
[ES] What's CollectiveSun's mission?
[CS] Our vision is to empower all nonprofit, tax-exempt, and mission-driven organizations with the ability to access clean, renewable energy solutions. We engage values-aligned capital to address social and environmental challenges. Promoting a vibrant and financially sustainable nonprofit ecosystem helps build stronger communities and a more robust social fabric.
[ES] What makes CollectiveSun different from other solar financing options for nonprofit organizations?
[CS] CollectiveSun is dedicated to serving nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations exclusively. We understand the unique challenges the nonprofit community faces and have custom tailored solutions to serve their needs.
[ES] How does CollectiveSun's Proprietary CrowdLending Campaign work?
[CS] Our CrowdLending platform enables nonprofits to approach their own community and ask for a loan (not a donation) that pays community members back with principal and interest.
[ES] What is unique about the CollectivePace™ loan?
[CS] CollectivePACE combines the benefits of PACE with the cost savings provided by our Solar Power Agreement (SPA). (EnergySage note: Property Assessed Clean Energy–PACE–financing is an increasingly popular option for home energy improvements, which you can learn more about here).
[ES] Tell us about the CollectiveSun SPA - how does that work?
[CS] The Solar Power Agreement (SPA) is a structure we created to utilize tax benefits that are otherwise lost when nonprofits try to go solar on their own. Under the SPA, we contribute 12 percent (or more) of the purchase price, and the nonprofit contributes 88 percent. CollectiveSun then owns and operates the system for the first six years. At the end of year six, the SPA provides a pathway to transfer ownership to the nonprofit.
[ES] What does the process entail for nonprofit organizations working with CollectiveSun to go solar?
[CS] It's easy! Just reach out to one of our friendly account managers, and we can explain all of the details.
(EnergySage note: Check out this article to learn more about going solar as a nonprofit. At EnergySage, we work closely with CollectiveSun to help non-profits go solar. Whether you come from their website or ours, we'll work with you to gather all the information necessary to design a solar panel system for your tax-exempt property. We generate an initial estimate of what solar can do for you–how many panels can you fit, how much of your bills can you offset with solar, and how much can you expect to spend and save–and then, when you're ready, we'll connect you with our network of certified installers to get final quotes. CollectiveSun provides the cherry on top with the 12 percent discount on solar, making solar even more affordable for your organization.)
[ES] Do nonprofits have to own their buildings to work with CollectiveSun?
[CS] Yes. Long-term leases are also an option that can work.
[ES] During the solar installation process, when does CollectiveSun require payments?
[CS] Payments are made according to a standard construction milestone schedule.
[ES] Why should nonprofit organizations work with CollectiveSun when financing their solar system?
[CS] CollectiveSun has over 160 projects across 20 states, totaling over $60 million. In addition to industry-leading financial and engineering expertise, our team is dedicated to elevating the broader nonprofit ecosystem so that they can do more of the great work they do to make our communities better places to live.
[ES] What are the most critical questions for nonprofit organizations to ask when assessing solar financing options?
[CS] One of the most important questions you can ask is: what is the experience and track record of the partner you are selecting? Make sure to talk with references – this is a 25+ year long-term asset, so you want to ensure that your partner's financial interests and mission-oriented values are in alignment with your own. (EnergySage note: And always compare quotes! We can help get you started today.)
To explore solar options for your business, sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace today. Once we understand your goals and energy usage, we'll help develop an initial project design and connect you to our network of pre-screened installers if you're ready to go solar. If you have specific preferences about financing your system–whether through CollectiveSun or another financier–make a note in your account so we can connect you with installers that will meet your needs.