Clean Energy Insights

National Renewable Energy Laboratory to Support Solar Initiative for BIPOC Houses of Worship

6 minute read

DOEs National Renewable Energy Laboratory competitively selected the nonprofits RE-volv, Green The Church, and Interfaith Power & Light to discover new approaches to solarize houses of worship in communities of color nationwide

San Francisco, CA, March 1, 2022 – The U.S. 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, who 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.

“To date, the benefits of clean energy are not equally benefiting all Americans. 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.”

"Every rooftop has the potential to redeem humanity's debt to Creation and lift up those in our community who need a hand,” said Bishop Jackson of Grace Tabernacle, San Francisco who received support in accessing solar panels from California Interfaith Power & Light. “Now is the time for our leaders to empower the people to use the tools of solar energy to advance the greater good.”

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 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

About RE-volv

RE-volv empowers people to bring clean energy to their communities, providing up-front financing to make it easy for community-serving nonprofits to go solar. RE-volv has deployed

3.3MW of solar for nearly 50 nonprofits, saving nonprofits $18M on their electricity bills. RE-volv also raises awareness about solar energy through its flagship Solar Ambassador Program, which trains college students and volunteers of all ages to help nonprofits they care about save money and reduce their climate impact with solar.

RE-volv is an inaugural member of the White House National Community Solar Partnership and is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. Learn more at re-volv.org.

About Green The Church

Green The Church (GTC) was founded in 2010 to be a repository and a catalyst at the intersection of the environmental movement and the Black Church. The organization works to bring Black faith leaders into the climate justice fight in order to “wake up the sleeping giant that is the Black Church” and ensure voices of color are at the table for conversations about environmental justice, energy and building efficiency, food sovereignty, and public health.

Over the past twelve years, in collaboration with major environmental, sustainability, food security, faith, and community-based nonprofit organizations, GTC has created a cadre of Black Church communities committed to green theology, promoting sustainable practices, and helping to build economic and political change. GTC presently partners with more than 1,000 pastors and congregations in eight states in the US as well as with groups in the Bahamas, Ghana, Nigeria, and the UK.

About Interfaith Power and Light

Interfaith Power & Light inspires and mobilizes people of faith and conscience to take bold and just action on climate change. With a network of 40 state affiliates encompassing 22,000 congregations, Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) reaches millions of people of all major religions inspiring, engaging, and equipping people of faith to address global warming. IPL helps congregations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, educates people of faith about the impacts and solutions to climate change, and inspires them to advocate for climate justice.

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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

Sydney Muñoz, [email protected], 415-275-0342

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