by Ivy Main, cross posted from Power for the People VA
Unless you have a sunny roof or back yard, you probably haven’t found a way to put your money into building local solar facilities. This month, that changed.
Secure Futures, LLC has created a crowdfunding platform to sell solar bonds in support of five projects across Virginia, all for tax-exempt institutions. The financial details, including interest rates and terms, can be found on the crowdfunding website.
The five projects, totaling 1.3 megawatts of solar capacity, involve these customers:
- The Caritas Center in Richmond, a non-profit that works to break the cycles of homelessness and addiction in the Metro Richmond area, will have a 426.6 kW system to serve a building under construction
- Eastern Mennonite School, a private K-12 school in Harrisonburg; the 131 kW solar facility will meet 33% of the school’s total electric demand
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with a research center in Ruckersville, where the 200 kW facility will go
- Shenandoah University, a private university in Winchester; the 467 kW project will provide 10% of the university’s electricity
- Temple Rodef Shalom, the largest Jewish congregation in the Commonwealth, located in Falls Church; the 115 kW facility will provide 29% of the temple’s electricity
All of the projects will be installed using power purchase agreements or solar services agreements, and all are scheduled for completion in 2019 and 2020.
Although selling bonds to finance solar projects doesn’t sound revolutionary, I’ve found few precedents for the general public to buy into specific projects. Solar City sold corporate bonds directly to the public until the company was bought by Tesla; the bonds financed Solar City’s nationwide portfolio of projects. (Disclosure—I own stock in several renewable energy companies including Tesla, not always to my profit.)
Several years ago another company, Solar Mosaic, raised money from individual investors who could choose to link their investments to specific projects, but the company has since closed the investment side of its business. Other companies have offered investment opportunities only to accredited investors—i.e, people with high incomes or net worth.
Opportunities for regular folks to invest have been slow to emerge since Congress changed the law to allow people to invest through internet crowdfunding back in 2012. But it took the Securities and Exchange Commission until 2016 to implement rules, so it’s early yet. If Secure Futures finds success raising funds for these Virginia projects, perhaps solar bonds will turn out to be the next new thing in project financing.