Non-profit crowdfunds solar projects for U.S. community groups

Clean Capital

Originally published in Clean Capital.

Non-profit crowdfunds solar projects for U.S. community groups

By Jenny Tan

March 24, 2016

A non-profit in the U.S. has come up with an innovative funding model to finance solar energy projects for community organizations.

The non-profit RE-volv is crowdfunding donations to help other non-profits and cooperatives without access to financing to pay the upfront costs of solar installations. Last week, it launched a new crowdfunding campaign for three new solar projects.

The organizations will sign a 20-year lease with RE-volv, which pays for the panels, and save 15 per cent or more on their power bills, according to RE-volv. The payments from those organizations help RE-volv invest in more projects, creating a self-sustaining fund. At the end of the 20-year lease, ownership of the solar panels is transferred to the organizations.

“Having completed three successful campaigns, we see that this model is replicable and poised to grow rapidly,” Andreas Karelas, executive director of RE-volv, said in astatement last year.

Each 20-year lease with monthly fees is expected to eventually generate enough funds for three more projects. Detailed financial information, however, is not published on the RE-volv site.

RE-volv raised over $121,000 on Indiegogo for its first three community-based solar projects, which totalled 68 kilowatts of solar capacity. The group signed their first lease agreement with a dance centre in 2003.  Since then, RE-volv has signed leases with a synagogue and a grocery store in the San Francisco Bay Area. The organization is now crowdfunding donations for three more projects.

Crowdfunding is gaining popularity as a means of funding renewable energy projects. Other crowdfunding ventures include Mosaic, an American organization that helps individual investors earn interest on solar projects. The People’s Solar, an Australian crowdfunding platform specifically for solar projects, raised over $20,000 in the past three months. Windcentrale in the Netherlands raised €1.3 million in 13 hours for a wind project when it launched in 2013.

Canada has had at least one crowdfunding venture for solar projects. Last month, anIndiegogo campaign ended 25 per cent short of its $50,000 goal for an Albertan community solar farm. Larger community-based funds for renewable energy projects exist, but not throughout the country. SolarShare, a co-operative based in Ontario, allows residents to purchase shares in commercial-scale solar projects. The group has raised over $5 million and members receive a guaranteed five per cent annual return.

Photo Credit: Karen Maraj

Alberta won’t buy power from B.C. without pipeline approval

Clean Capital

Originally published in Clean Capital.


Alberta won’t buy power from B.C. without pipeline approval

By Jenny Tan

March 10, 2016

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is saying Alberta will not buy renewable power from its western neighbour if it can’t get an oil pipeline built to the B.C. coast.

The NDP government has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants in Alberta by 2030. More than half of the province’s electricity currently comes from coal.

But it seems Alberta may not turn to B.C. for renewable electricity without getting something in return.

“We’re not necessarily going to have that much demand for that much electricity if we can’t find someone to sell our product to,” Notley said during a teleconference last week, as reported by the Calgary Herald.

Meanwhile, B.C. is seeking federal funding for a new $1-billion transmission line to move surplus power from B.C. to Alberta.

“We can see an opportunity for both jurisdictions to benefit from the sale of our clean electricity to them,” B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett told the Vancouver Sun last month.

However, the proposed deal is far from settled.

“We’ll do what’s best for Albertans and Alberta’s economy,” Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in an email statement last week, as reported by the Financial Post. “We won’t be buying more power if we can’t get our resources to market.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver applauded Notley’s stance. “Alberta shouldn’t allow other provinces … to treat us like a doormat,” McIver told the Herald.

Other Albertan leaders agree. “It has to be a two-way street,” said Wildrose critic Prasad Panda to the Herald. “It has to be win-win for all.”

The proposed deal is facing controversy even in B.C. Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix suggested the deal is being used to justify construction of the controversial Site C dam in northeastern B.C. Protesters claim the dam will flood sacred and historically significant sites.

The response from the B.C. government to Alberta’s opposition has been outwardly optimistic. “We in B.C. are not opposed to other Canadians getting their products to the West Coast at all,” Bennett told the Herald. “I think we can work through this and find a way to do business together.”

As positive as Bennett may be, the strained relationship between B.C. and Alberta under Clark’s government may not help the deal. The Financial Post notes that in her February throne speech, Clark had harsh words for Alberta, saying that the province “lost its focus … They expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending.”

Photo Credit: Province of British Columbia