BLOG

Philanthropic financing makes solar energy projects accessible to community nonprofits.

Financing is often the biggest barrier to small commercial solar projects, in particular those in the non-profit world. Philanthropic SEPA financing provides an exciting opportunity for nonprofit organizations to reap the benefits of solar power. And for environmentally-focused donors, their giving is doubly impactful. This funding model makes community nonprofits more financially sustainable while reducing our dependence on nonrenewable energy. That’s a win for everyone.

SAE School Set to Become First 100% Solar-Powered School in Georgia

On a hot, humid September day, dozens of students, teachers, well-wishers and project participants gathered outside of The SAE School in Mableton, GA. The occasion was to celebrate a ribbon-cutting of the school’s new solar array, an installation that puts The SAE School on its way to becoming the first 100% solar-powered school in Georgia. Its path to get there is unique, but one that could soon be adopted by other schools and nonprofits in other states.

Funding Offers Roadmap for Other Nonprofits

The SAE School was able to reach its goal of 100% clean energy years ahead of schedule due in part to an innovative, philanthropic financing structure.  While similar structures have been used for commercial projects, this is the first of its kind in Georgia to leverage both tax equity and charitable grants and is a model for other nonprofits pursuing similar goals.

The basis for the structure leverages legislation that provides for Solar Energy Procurement Agreements (SEPA’s) and federal tax credits that help promote solar energy.  In order to take advantage of these components, an entity was established to fund the solar project through the backing of a broad group of supporters that includes Southface’s GoodUse program, The Bill and Melinda Nussey Foundation, Allen Bradley of Trusted Counsel and Monarch Private Capital.  A SEPA was put in place between the entity and The SAE School. The SEPA provides for the sale of electricity generated through the solar project to The SAE School at a rate that allows a savings of approximately $15,000 a year in utility costs.  After approximately 10 years, the school will have the option to purchase the solar infrastructure and therefore almost eliminate their cost of electricity for the remaining life of the project.

For more information on SEPAs and philanthropic financing for solar energy projects, contact Allen Bradley at abradley@trusted-counsel.com or (404) 898-2900.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR