NREL-backed nonprofit team to advance solar for BIPOC houses of worship

A church installation by Ipsun Solar.

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced this week that nonprofits RE-volv, Green The Church and Interfaith Power & Light will receive financial, analytical and facilitation support as they assist BIPOC-led houses of worship around the country to go solar, as part of the third round of the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN)

“We selected teams that are experimenting with creative, promising ideas to use solar power in underserved communities across the United States,” said Eric Lockhart, who leads the Innovation Network at NREL. “The work of these teams will provide a blueprint for other communities pursuing novel ways of adopting and benefiting from solar energy.”

The three nonprofit partners, which have worked together for many years, aim to increase solar adoption by houses of worship led by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) by strengthening existing partnerships and scaling successful efforts. The team will streamline the process of going solar and remove barriers to entry by identifying promising locations, presenting proposals, financing the solar projects, and engaging the local community. In doing so, the partnership aims to help congregants and community members go solar at home and deliver solar workforce development opportunities to the community.

The focus of the third round of the Solar Energy Innovation Network, administered by NREL, is to overcome barriers to equitable adoption of solar in underserved communities. The contract awarded to the partners is specifically focused on elevating equity in commercial-scale solar deployment, of which nonprofits face particular barriers to accessing solar financing.

“We know there are large racial and ethnic disparities around where solar installations occur in America. Through this partnership, we’ll not only be able to assist BIPOC-led houses of worship by lowering their electricity bills, allowing them to improve the critical services they offer to their community, but these projects will raise awareness and visibility of solar, hopefully compelling others in the community to go solar, multiplying the impact of each project,” said Andreas Karelas, executive director of RE-volv.

Houses of worship and nonprofits nationwide face many barriers to going solar, as they are unable to utilize the federal investment tax credits for solar, and have a harder time demonstrating creditworthiness to traditional solar financiers. This initiative will overcome barriers for BIPOC-led houses of worship accessing solar, allowing them to go solar for zero down while saving substantially on their electricity bills, which they can invest back into serving their community.

“Black churches and faith buildings all over the country must be retrofitted and stewarded, and we do not want to assign that task to others,” said Rev. dr. Ambrose Carroll, founder of Green The Church. “Green The Church is committed to facilitating and supporting community-driven solar projects and ensuring that such projects are accountable to and co-created with the communities most impacted by them.”

Over the next 18 months, RE-volv, Green The Church, and Interfaith Power & Light will work to bring solar energy to BIPOC-led houses of worship, while working collaboratively with the seven other SEIN teams to share lessons learned and help create a blueprint for equitable solar deployment nationwide.

The Solar Energy Innovation Network is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

News item from RE-volv

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