Frequently Asked Questions
- What is RE-volv?
RE-volv is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco with a mission to empower people and communities to invest collectively in renewable energy. RE-volv lets individuals who support clean energy chip in a few dollars to help communities all over the United States go solar. These donations help finance solar systems for community-based nonprofits that lack access to traditional solar financing.
- What makes RE-volv unique?
RE-volv provides solar financing to nonprofit organizations that face major barriers to getting their solar projects financed. Small to medium size community nonprofits often do not have the up-front capital to finance a solar system and are unable to receive solar financing through traditional models. By going solar with RE-volv, nonprofits save on average 15% or more on their electricity bills from the first month with increased savings throughout the term of the lease.
As nonprofits pay us back for the cost of their solar system, we put their solar lease payments into our Solar Seed Fund, a first-of-its-kind pay-it-forward model for renewable energy that we use to bring solar to more nonprofits across the country. This revolving Solar Seed Fund then helps to pay for the next nonprofit to go solar, whose lease payments help another nonprofit to go solar, and so on. As more and more nonprofits go solar, our collective impact on climate change grows exponentially. To top it all off, at the end of the lease, we transfer ownership of the system to each nonprofit at no additional cost.
- What is the Solar Seed Fund?
The Solar Seed Fund is a revolving fund for solar. When a nonprofit goes solar, a portion of the upfront costs comes from this revolving fund. Once their lease begins, the nonprofit makes lease payments, which goes into the Solar Seed Fund. Over the course of their lease, the nonprofit’s solar payments will be added to the Solar Seed Fund, which will be used to pay for more nonprofits to go solar – each of which will fund more solar projects!
Simply put, the Solar Seed Fund is a pay-it-forward model for solar for nonprofits.
- How long has RE-volv been a nonprofit?
We were founded and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization on February 4, 2011.
- Where is RE-volv located?
RE-volv’s headquarters is located in San Francisco, California. Our team members are remotely located and our solar projects are located in states across the country.
- How can I get involved in RE-volv’s work?
We’re excited you're interested in getting involved in our work! We have several ways for the community to get involved. You can help bring solar to a nonprofit in your community by becoming a volunteer Solar Ambassador. Another way is to donate to RE-volv, either through a one-time donation or by becoming a monthly donor. You can also stay informed and engaged with our work by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media.
Visit our Take Action page to learn more and get involved.
- What types of nonprofits does RE-volv solarize?
We solarize nonprofit organizations, Houses of Worship, and Co-ops located within the United States. We currently have brought solar to nonprofits working in 11 impact areas, including affordable housing, animal welfare, arts, BIPOC led/serving, conservation, community development, faith, food and agriculture, health, veterans, and youth.
- Where can I learn more about RE-volv’s past nonprofit solar projects?
You can learn more about our past projects and solar stories of impact from the nonprofits we’ve solarized on our projects page.
- Where can I learn more about solar energy?
- How is RE-volv funded?
RE-volv receives funding through grants from the government, individuals, and foundations, funding from Recoverable Grants, and support from donations.
- What is the Solar Ambassador Program?
The Solar Ambassador program is a year-long Fellowship where volunteers help bring solar to a nonprofit in their community. Through the Fellowship, volunteers learn about solar energy, technology, policy, and finance, community engagement, communications, and project management. Solar Ambassadors help bring solar to a nonprofit in their community by reaching out to the nonprofit, assisting in reviewing the solar proposal with the nonprofit, hosting a ribbon cutting event, creating a project video, and educating the community about the nonprofit's solar project.
- Who can be a Solar Ambassador?
Anyone interested in making a positive impact on their community and making an impact on the environment can be a Solar Ambassador Fellow. Our minimum age limit for being involved in the program is high school students.
- Can I be a Solar Ambassador if I live in a country outside of the United States?
Our Solar Ambassador program is currently only open to individuals living within the United States as we only offer solar financing for nonprofits in the United States.
- Can I receive college credits for being a Solar Ambassador?
Depending on the requirements of your university and your degree program, you might be eligible to receive college credits or meet internship requirements for being a part of the Solar Ambassador program. Students will need to check with their university and degree program to determine if they are eligible to use the Solar Ambassador Fellowship program to meet degree requirements. We have had many Ambassadors complete the Fellowship for university credit or to meet an internship requirement.
- What are the benefits of being a Solar Ambassador?
By becoming a Solar Ambassador, you receive training in solar energy, technology, policy, and finance, community engagement, communications, and project management. You’ll learn about the solar industry from industry experts during our monthly webinars. Through the Fellowship, you’ll also lead a project to help bring solar to a nonprofit. Both the professional development and hand-on experiences that the Solar Ambassador program offers is valuable experience that can help individuals launch their career in the solar, renewable energy, and sustainability industry.
- What training will I receive as a Solar Ambassador?
As a Solar Ambassador, we provide training on solar energy, finance, technology, and policy, community engagement, and communications. We also provide training and professional development opportunities via the following educational opportunities:
- Solar Ambassador Leadership Summit: A 2-day virtual training in the fall where we provide training on solar, community engagement, communications, event planning, social media management, nonprofit outreach, and much more to equip Solar Ambassadors with the tools to bring solar to a nonprofit.
- Monthly Webinars with Industry Experts: We host a monthly webinar exclusively for our Solar Ambassadors with industry experts who cover many different topics of the program, including solar sales, solar policy, communications and event planning, and more.
- Solar Ambassador Bootcamp Training: Our 1-hour Solar Ambassador Training provides a preliminary training for new Solar Ambassadors.
- Solar Career Preparation Training Course: Our Careers Preparation Course is a one hour training that provides information on various solar jobs available within the industry, solar job trends, and tips for getting a job in the industry.
- Do I have to be a college student to be a Solar Ambassador?
Anyone can be a Solar Ambassador! Many of our Solar Ambassador Team are university students at colleges across the country, but that is not a requirement. Community members, high schoolers, working professionals, college students, retirees and more have successfully been a part of the program.
- Do Solar Ambassadors form teams or do they work individually on their projects?
Typically Solar Ambassadors form a team and work together to help bring solar to a nonprofit. However, we do have many individuals involved in the program as well who are working on their project individually with the support of the RE-volv team.
- Where can I sign up to be a Solar Ambassador?
We’re happy to have you on board! If you’d like to sign up to be a Solar Ambassador, you can complete the sign-up form on our webpage.
- Why donate to RE-volv?
When you donate to RE-volv, 100% of your donation goes towards installing solar on a community-serving nonprofit across the country. Your donation will help fight climate change and reduce the nonprofit’s electricity costs by 15% or more, allowing nonprofits to invest their solar savings back into their mission.
- What is RE-volv?
RE-volv is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to tackle climate change at the local level by empowering people to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in their communities, especially those that are often excluded from the benefits of the clean energy economy. At RE-volv, we work to provide access to solar energy to nonprofits across the country that serve disadvantaged communities that otherwise could not go solar, while training the next generation of clean energy leaders in the process. Through community engagement, we hope to inspire and build momentum for stronger clean energy policy.
- What is the Solar Seed Fund?
The Solar Seed Fund is a revolving fund for solar. When a nonprofit goes solar with RE-volv, a portion of the upfront costs comes from this revolving fund. Once their lease begins, the nonprofit makes lease payments, which goes into the Solar Seed Fund. Over the course of their lease, the nonprofit’s solar payments will be added to the Solar Seed Fund, which will be used to pay for more nonprofits to go solar – each of which will fund more solar projects!
Simply put, the Solar Seed Fund is a pay-it-forward model for solar for nonprofits. Your donation helps support more nonprofits going solar. As the nonprofit makes their solar lease payments, these payments are added to our Solar Seed Fund. Therefore, your donation today to help bring solar to a nonprofit will multiply to help more nonprofits go solar for years to come.
- Where does my donation go?
Your donation goes toward our innovative Solar Seed Fund model, a revolving fund we use to bring clean energy to nonprofits across the country. The solar savings our nonprofit partners receive is invested back into their community-serving programs while their solar payments are invested into our Solar Seed Fund, a revolutionary pay-it-forward revolving fund for solar used to bring solar to more deserving nonprofits.
- Is my donation to RE-volv tax deductible?
Yes, RE-volv is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. All donations to RE-volv – whether to a solar project or to our operations – can be claimed as a tax deduction.
- What is the Monthly Donor program?
Our Monthly Donor program allows donors to make a recurring donation to RE-volv on a monthly basis. Donors can choose how much they would like to donate to RE-volv and each month the donation takes place on an automated schedule. Donors can choose to edit their donation amount, pause, or cancel their monthly donation at any time by contacting us. Sign up to be a Monthly Donor and help bring solar energy to nonprofits across the country.
- Where can I learn more about RE-volv’s finances?
Our 10 Year Impact Report highlights our financials, featured on page 16 of the report. This report highlights our operation expenses, programmatic expenses, and operating budget for the last 10 years.
Recoverable Grants FAQ
- What is a Recoverable Grant?
A Recoverable Grant is an innovative financial vehicle that allows RE-volv to receive a grant from foundations and Donor Advised Funds (DAF), use the funds and DAF gift to build solar projects for deserving nonprofits, and pay back the endowment with interest over time. At the end of the term, grantors receive back their grant with interest, and grantors can then continue to regrant those funds to organizations of their choice.
- How is a Recoverable Grant different from an investment?
Recoverable grants are a type of charitable giving and are not securities. As such, recoverable grants are high impact because they advance charitable purposes and when successful, the capital can be used towards additional charitable purposes. Typically, recoverable grants are made to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Unlike lending, in which an investor has recourse if a borrower defaults on a loan, the donor has limited recourse if a recipient is unable to repay the recoverable grant but did use the funds for the documented charitable purpose (source:Capshift).
- What are the terms of RE-volv’s Recoverable Grant?
RE-volv is currently raising $10 Million through two recoverable grant offerings including a 9-year term with a 1% annual interest rate and a 15-year term with a 1.75% annual interest rate. Your support via a recoverable grant will accelerate the just transition to a clean energy economy that provides real economic value to community-serving nonprofits that need it most. Investors will receive bi-annual reports showcasing how their grant is creating a positive impact in communities at the front lines of the fight for climate solutions.
- How are Recoverable Grants used?
Recoverable grants can play a uniquely catalytic role. For example, they may provide funding that allows a nonprofit to experiment and develop programs beyond their core competencies without the risk of impairing their existing programs. At the same time, recoverable grants allow donors to take a financial risk in pursuit of impact that, if it pays off, can return some or all the grant dollars for future charitable use.
Many donors use recoverable grants alongside traditional grants to strategically expand the impact of their philanthropy. By incorporating recoverable grants, donors can support the charitable causes they care about while recovering and reusing capital when supporting revenue generating programs or expansion efforts, allowing for greater impact (Source: Capshift)
- How are RE-volv’s Recoverable Grants used?
RE-volv’s Recoverable Grants are used directly to finance the up-front costs for nonprofits across the country to go solar through our nonprofit solar financing model.
- How can I make a Recoverable Grant to RE-volv?
Individuals can make a Recoverable Grant to RE-volv through their Donor Advised Fund Management Group or by reaching out to RE-volv. Foundations can make a Recoverable Grant to RE-volv by reaching out to us at email@example.com.
- Is RE-volv’s Recoverable Grant pre-approved by any Donor Advised Fund company?
RE-volv’s Recoverable Grant is pre-approved for recoverable grantmaking through Vanguard Charitable’s Premier Services Group, one of the nation’s leading donor advised funds!
- How can I learn more about Recoverable Grants?
You can learn more about Recoverable Grants by visiting the RE-volv Recoverable Grants page.
Going Solar for Nonprofits
- What are the benefits of going solar with RE-volv?
By going solar with RE-volv, nonprofits can go solar for $0 down and immediately save 15% or more on their electricity costs and save even more throughout their 20 year lease.
During the lease, nonprofits will benefit from a full operations & maintenance package provided by RE-volv. At the end of the lease, the nonprofit will own the system outright at no additional cost. After the 20 year lease, the nonprofit can benefit from free renewable solar energy for years to come.
By empowering their community to make a positive impact on climate change and educating community members on the benefits of solar, nonprofits also become sustainability leaders in their community. Additionally, the nonprofit helps other nonprofit organizations across the country go solar by contributing to the Solar Seed Fund, our revolving fund we use to bring solar to more nonprofits.
- Does RE-volv require nonprofits to pay a downpayment to go solar?
We help nonprofits go solar for zero down through either a solar lease or a Power Purchase Agreement. We do not require nonprofits to pay a downpayment when they go solar. A nonprofit can choose to pay a downpayment for their solar system, but this is not a requirement.
- What nonprofits are eligible to go solar with RE-volv?
Community-serving nonprofits, Houses of Worship, and Co-ops located in the United States are eligible to go solar with RE-volv. These organizations need to own their own building and have a newly renovated roof to be eligible to go solar with RE-volv. Generally roofs less than 10 years old are ideal, since the panels will likely produce energy for 30 years or more. Organizations with roofs older than 10 years may still be eligible - it really depends on the roof’s warranty and expected lifetime. For more info, contact us at (415) 579-3251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How long are the contract terms for a nonprofit to go solar?
Our solar lease and Power Purchase Agreement are for a 20-year term but we can be flexible if desired. After the 20-year term, the ownership of the solar system gets transferred from RE-volv to the nonprofit.
- How does the pricing work?
RE-volv finances the upfront cost of installing solar on a nonprofit, therefore there’s no down payment required by the nonprofit. The RE-volv lease then immediately saves the nonprofit 15% or more on their current electricity rates. Over the course of the lease, while utility rates are escalating every year, the nonprofit’s savings will accelerate. When the lease ends, RE-volv transfers ownership of the solar system to the nonprofit at no cost. The exact savings depends on the project size, which is based on current electrical usage on site.
- What financing options are available to nonprofits?
Most lenders and financiers don’t offer solar financing options for small-to-medium scale nonprofits, who typically don’t have the capital to pay for the solar system upfront. That's why, as a nonprofit ourselves, our mission is to fill this role. Our lease-to-own model is a great way for nonprofits to finance their systems with no upfront cost. Nonprofits can go solar with RE-volv through either a Power Purchase Agreement or a solar lease, depending on which option is available per state.
- What happens to the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)?
Since nonprofits have no tax liability, and RE-volv is a nonprofit serving other nonprofits, we don’t utilize the federal tax credit. This enables us to transfer ownership of the system to the nonprofit for free at the end of the lease.
- Who takes care of Operations & Maintenance during the solar lease?
RE-volv is responsible for monitoring the system and maintaining the equipment for the duration of the lease, which includes managing all warranties with the installers and manufacturers. Solar modules are typically warrantied for 25 years, and rarely need to be replaced. Inverters, on the other hand, are typically warrantied for 10-15 years. However, our operations & maintenance package covers any issues with the equipment, so RE-volv will replace an inverter when needed. As stated in our lease, RE-volv is responsible to make all repairs in a timely manner.
- What happens if the system doesn’t produce as much energy as was estimated? How can we know if the system isn’t producing?
Solar production estimate software is very accurate and we are confident in the estimated production for the solar system. We model 20 years of production and solar revenue so it is very important that the system produces what we expect to ensure the nonprofit receives the solar expected. Having an Asset Manager who monitors the systems allows us to be notified of any issues and they will work with the installer or a technician to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Our Asset Manager will keep the nonprofit informed of any issues or site visits from the solar installer.
- What happens if the nonprofit moves to a new location or sells the building?
There are several options when a building changes ownership. We can easily transfer the lease to the new owner, and the new owner would continue the lease as normal. Or, the nonprofit can use our early buyout option to pay-off the lease at a discounted rate, then include the solar system in the property valuation. On the other hand, if a nonprofit retains ownership of the building and leases the space to new tenants, the solar lease payments could be included in the new tenant’s property lease payments.
- What if the roof needs to be replaced after the system is installed?
Removing and re-installing the system isn’t as hard as it sounds. Nonprofits should contact RE-volv to coordinate the re-roofing timeline. The original installer or another certified installer can then work with the re-roofing contractor to remove the panels and reinstall them.
- How old does my roof need to be to go solar?
To bring solar to a nonprofit, the nonprofit’s roof needs to be in good condition and less than 10 years old. Since solar panels last for 30 or more years, we want to make sure that the nonprofit’s roof is in good condition so that the solar panels do not need to be removed due to roof repair throughout the lifetime of the solar panels.
- What are the benefits of going solar?
There are many benefits for a nonprofit going solar, including:
- Save money on electricity bills: By going solar with RE-volv, nonprofits save on average 15% on their electricity bills from day one and see more savings overtime.
- Own the system after 20 years: After the 20-year Solar Lease or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), the nonprofit will own their solar system.
- Stable electricity costs: With a RE-volv Solar Lease or PPA, the nonprofit knows their predicted energy costs for the next 20 years. In states where energy costs are high and cost of electricity continues to rise, this allows the nonprofit to keep their energy bills low and predictable for years to come.
- Environmental protection: By going solar, your nonprofit will reduce its carbon footprint and will save hundreds to thousands of pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
- What happens if RE-volv goes out of business?
RE-volv will transfer the lease to a new system owner. Like with a transfer of building ownership, the lease continues as before, but the same lease payments are made to the new system owner. The lease specifies that all obligations for any new system owner remain the same, and any substantial change to the lease requires signatures from both parties. Nonprofits will continue to receive all the benefits of solar as stated in the lease, but will make the lease payments to a different organization.
- My nonprofit is small. Is there a minimum size that my nonprofit needs to be to go solar with RE-volv?
There is no minimum size for a nonprofit to go solar. We have installed system sizes ranging from two kW to 615 kW for nonprofits. Many of our projects are for small community-serving nonprofits.
- Who installs the solar array?
We work with a local, certified solar installation company near your nonprofit who will install the solar system.
- What are the requirements for a nonprofit to receive solar financing from RE-volv?
- Be a community-serving nonprofit, House of Worship, or Co-op located in the United States.
- Nonprofit preferably owns their building or is in a long-term lease.
- Roof must be in good shape or less than 10 years old.
- How does the process work?
- RE-volv reviews your application and provides a free solar quote.
- If approved, RE-volv and the nonprofit sign into a partnership agreement.
- An accredited solar installer installs your solar panel system. If a solar installation company submitted this form on behalf of a nonprofit you’re working with, RE-volv honors that relationship and will work with your company on the solar installation.
- Nonprofits save 15% or more on their electricity bills from day one and locks in electricity rates for 20 years. All warranties, operations, and maintenance are covered.
- RE-volv helps engage and educate the community about your nonprofit’s work & the benefits of solar.
- Solar lease payments are continuously reinvested into RE-volv’s Solar Seed Fund – a first-of-its-kind revolving fund used to finance future nonprofit solar projects. Each nonprofit helps 2-3 other nonprofits go solar through our pay-it-forward model.
- Who do I contact if I have a nonprofit lead that needs solar financing?
- Will RE-volv work with my solar company on a solar lead I brought to RE-volv?
Yes, RE-volv honors the relationship that solar companies have established with their nonprofit solar leads. If a solar company brings us a lead to help bring solar to a nonprofit, we will work with that installer on the installation of the solar project.
- Where does RE-volv operate?
RE-volv currently works with nonprofits in the United States.
- How do I sign up a nonprofit for solar financing?
You can sign up a nonprofit for solar financing by filling out the form on our solar installer page.
RE-volv 10 Years of Impact
Founded in 2011, RE-volv is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps fellow nonprofits across the country go solar. Over the last decade, we have brought solar to 50+ community-serving nonprofits in 14 states, equaling 3.4+ Megawatts of solar!View Impact Report