Three non-profits receive NREL support to help BIPOC houses of worship to go solar


RE-volv, Green The Church, and Interfaith Power & Light are partnering 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, and they hope that their work becomes a blueprint that will help other communities transition to clean energy.

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is supporting these nonprofits financial, analytical, and facilitation help as part of the third round of the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN). The focus of the third round of the SEIN is to help underserved communities overcome barriers to equitable adoption of solar, including funding, as nonprofits face particular barriers to accessing solar financing.

“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 team aims to streamline the process by identifying promising locations, presenting proposals, financing the solar projects, and engaging the local community. The partnership also plans to help congregants and community members go solar at home and deliver solar workforce development opportunities to the community.

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.

In terms of funding, houses of worship and nonprofits nationwide are unable to make use of the federal investment tax credits for solar, and may have a harder time demonstrating creditworthiness to traditional solar financiers. This initiative will enable BIPOC-led houses of worship go solar for zero down, while benefiting from saving substantially on their electricity bills.

“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 collaboratively with the seven other SEIN teams to share lessons learned and help create a blueprint for equitable solar deployment nationwide.

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