Fellowship Energy, a clean energy finance company developing solar projects for faith-based organizations, parochial schools and other nonprofit organizations, has won the Best Nonprofit Program in the Solar in Your Community Challenge, part of a $5 million competition from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Technologies Office that aims to expand access to solar electricity.
Fellowship Energy won this recognition and a cash award for its innovative finance solution that allows faith-based communities and other nonprofits to go solar without upfront costs. These organizations realize an immediate reduction in utility bills and improve cash flow while actively participating in the creation of a more sustainable future.
Specifically, the team developed a standardized financial solution for 16 solar projects, the first two being St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church & Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia. The organizations were able to finance their solar projects using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) guaranteed by the Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF). Virginia-based solar developer Performance Solar provided design and installation services and will own and maintain the systems.
“This program is dedicated to solving a difficult problem that has locked too many faith-based nonprofits out of solar,” said Steve Birdsong, president of Performance Solar. “Providing a way to go solar with no upfront costs while providing immediate energy cost savings is crucial to expanding the market for nonprofit solar.”
Fellowship’s financial product has a similar structure to other solar PPAs in that there are no upfront, out-of-pocket expenses and a third party owns and maintains the solar system, selling the clean energy back to the host organization for a period of up to 25 years. Organizations may opt to buy their system outright after six years – enabling them to own an asset with proven and predictable performance at a fraction of the cost of installing the system. Fellowship identifies ways to enhance the credit profile of a customer to enable greater investor participation.
“Being recognized by the Department of Energy as the best nonprofit program lets the solar industry know that nonprofits now have a new, financially accessible path to renewable energy,” said Philip Kwait, chief executive officer of Fellowship Energy. “A house of worship is the spiritual and thought center of a community, and we will use this award to continue our outreach and encourage new solar adoption by communities across the U.S.”
The recognition from the DOE will enable Fellowship Energy to serve more organizations and underscores the importance of expanding solar access to every sector of the economy. The team is currently working on projects involving tens of megawatts of solar at various stages of development.
Through the DOE’s Solar In Your Community Challenge, the Fellowship Energy team successfully competed with more than 170 teams from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico to develop projects and programs that expand solar access to low- and moderate-income households; nonprofit organizations; and state, local, and tribal governments. If all of the Challenge teams successfully execute their business plans, the program would create 1.6 gigawatts of new solar by 2020 and serve as many as 900 nonprofits and nearly 50,000 households.
— Solar Builder magazine