RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits and houses of worship in Wisconsin.
Through a generous partnership with the Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW Wisconsin awards grant-funding and solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy. Solar for Good also offers small grants for engineering reviews and technical assistance to get projects started and see them through to success.
In 2020, the First Unitarian Society of Madison, began contributing grant donations to the program through the Array it Forward initiative. Any member of the community can contribute to the Array it Forward initiative through the DONATE button below.
Solar for Good celebrates awarded solar projects and helps nonprofit organizations educate their communities about the benefits of solar power. Solar for Good has already helped over 90 nonprofits save money on their electric bills that they can reinvest in their missions.
The Spring 2021 cycle of Solar for Good will open on April 1, 2021. Applications will be due on Saturday, May 1, 2021.
What does Solar for Good offer?
SOLAR PANELS: RENEW Wisconsin will administer solar panel donations through the Couillard Solar Foundation. Nonprofits can be awarded up to 50% of the panels required for their solar project, based on system size.
- For solar systems smaller than 75 kilowatts, a nonprofit can be awarded up to 50% of the solar panels required, up to 75 panels* (~$12,500 value).
- For systems 75 kilowatts and larger, a nonprofit can be awarded up to 50% of the solar panels required, up to 150 panels* (~$25,000 value).
- Panel allotment will be allocated as follows:
|FUNDING FOR||MAXIMUM GRANT SIZE|
|Solar arrays 5 – 75 kW||Up to 75 panels* (approximately $12,500 worth of materials)|
|Solar arrays 75 kW and larger||Up to 150 panels* (approximately $25,000 worth of materials)|
*Winning nonprofits will need to budget for shipping expenses for all awarded solar panels to their site or partnering solar contractor’s facility.
PROJECT GRANTS: RENEW Wisconsin will administer grants for solar projects through the Couillard Solar Foundation and the Array it Forward initiative.
- For solar systems smaller than 75 kilowatts, a nonprofit can receive up to 20% of the installed cost of their solar system, with a maximum grant size of $5,000.
- For solar systems larger than 75 kilowatts, a nonprofit can receive up to 20% of the installed cost of their solar system, with a maximum grant size of $10,000.
- Funds will be allocated as follows:
|FUNDING FOR||MAXIMUM GRANT SIZE|
|Solar arrays 5 – 75 kW||20% of installed cost, up to $5,000|
|Solar arrays 75 kW and larger||20% of installed cost, up to $10,000|
Education: Our energy experts are talking to nonprofit organizations across the state about how solar can help them. Want to learn more? Invite us to present to organization’s leadership or board of directors on the benefits of solar energy and how it works. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technical support: Many organizations have a hard time funding the design of a solar system or finding the right organization to help. Solar for Good can connect your organization to a trusted solar design firm and issue a grant to help cover cost of a site assessment or engineering review. In addition, we can answer questions, review documents, and provide guidance along the way.
In October 2017, RENEW Wisconsin and Wisconsin Green Muslims hosted a webinar about the Faith and Solar Initiative and Solar for Good. To view a recording of the webinar, click HERE.
How do I leverage my Award?
The Solar for Good program is designed to help support projects, not to fund them entirely. If you are awarded solar panels, there are several ways to leverage the Solar for Good award to fund the remaining cost:
Matching fund for a public fundraising campaign. If you have a community of supporters or want to engage the broader public through donations for your cause, a Solar for Good award can serve as a non-monetary contribution to provide a bigger incentive for others to donate.
Contribution to an existing budget. Perhaps your organization has a capital budget or funds on hand but needs some help to pay the full cost of a solar power system. A Solar for Good award can help defray the cost of buying a system outright.
“Gap” funding for a financed system. If your organization is looking to finance a system through a bank loan or other arrangement, our award can reduce the amount you need to finance. This means smaller, more affordable ongoing payments.
Who is eligible for Solar for Good funding?
In order to receive a solar panel award, the organization must be a registered nonprofit organization located in Wisconsin, be in good financial standing and able to accept donations, and own its building and/or be able to make necessary changes to its roof or property to accommodate solar. Please note that this program is designed to fund mission-based organizations. In addition, organizations receiving solar panels must agree to participate in educating community members about the benefits of solar energy. You can see the draft Memorandum of Understanding we sign with nonprofits who received funds through Solar for Good HERE.
How do I apply?
• Before you apply for a Solar for Good award, take some time to learn about solar energy and evaluate whether this is a good idea for your organization.
• Get a site assessment from one or more reputable solar companies. Determine which company you will work with and identify the size and cost of the project you will install.
• Apply for your solar panels. To review a PDF of the application questions, click HERE. Note: To complete your application, you must email a copies of (1) your solar site assessment or proposal AND (2) proof of your tax-exempt status (an IRS designation or current certificate from Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions) to SolarforGood@renewwisconsin.org.
Applications for Spring 2021 will be open on Thursday, April 1. Applications must be received by 5:00pm Saturday, May 1, 2021. Winning organizations will be announced on or before May 15, 2021.
RENEW evaluates each application on an individual basis. If your application is selected to receive a solar panel award, we will reserve your modules until you are ready to install your project. RENEW Wisconsin will hold panel reservations for no more than 12 months, so all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within that timeframe.
If your application is selected:
• Accept your award by signing our MOU. Your document will be customized, but you can view a sample MOU HERE.
• If you haven’t already, sign your contract with your solar company and give us a copy of your contract and proposal.
• Execute your fundraising campaign. We require you to check in with us at 6 months and show that you are on track to meet your funding goal. If you are not on track, we will work with you to find a solution or cancel your reservation.
• Work with your solar contractor to complete installation of the solar project within 12 months. RENEW Wisconsin will arrange for your solar panels when your contractor is ready to install.
What about technical assistance grants?
For organizations looking at solar for the first time, a solar site assessment from a professional is the first step to determine whether the property is a good fit for solar and, if so, the recommended size for their solar array. Or perhaps your organization had a preliminary site assessment but needs to hire additional expertise from an engineer before proceeding with an installation. Technical assistance grants are available to organizations who need help funding a solar site assessment (up to $250) or engineering review (up to $500) for their solar array.
These applications will be reviewed separately from the seasonal applications for grants for solar installation and will be awarded on an ongoing, first-come, first-served basis.
If your application is approved, we will reserve your funding for up to 2 months for you to receive your assessment or engineering services. After you receive your grant, we require you to send us a copy of your solar proposal or report from your contractor.
How to Apply
• Identify the solar contractor or engineering firm you will hire.
• Complete your online application HERE.
Note: To complete your application, you must email proof of your tax-exempt status – an IRS designation or current certificate from Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions – to SolarforGood@renewwisconsin.org.
Decisions and funding announcements will be made on an ongoing basis. We will notify you within 10 days whether your application has been approved.
If your application is approved
• Accept your grant by letting us know. We will reserve your funding until you have received your assessment or engineering services, for up to 2 months.
• Complete your site assessment or engineering review.
• Email us a copy of your invoice showing the name of the company, date of services and the total cost. RENEW Wisconsin will then disburse the grant.
• Once you have received your proposal or report from your contractor, we require you to email us a copy at SolarforGood@renewwisconsin.org.
Are there geographic restrictions on who can apply?
We are just starting our solar journey and don’t know the system size/cost. Can we apply?
Organizations should have identified a contractor and received a solar site assessment with a recommended system size and cost estimate before applying.
What happens if we can’t install the solar panels within 12 months of receiving an award?
If you have legitimate circumstances beyond your control and can show progress toward your fundraising goal, we may be able to work with you to offer an extension. The available panels may be a different manufacturer or model.
Can we receive multiple awards from Solar for Good?
Yes. The same organization can receive a technical assistance grant and a regular Solar for Good solar panel award, but it cannot receive multiple technical assistance grants.
Can we receive this award if we are applying for a Focus on Energy grant or some other incentive?
Yes. You must let us know in your application which other grants or funding sources you expect to receive, including Focus on Energy.
Check out these webinars for more information about how your organization can go solar!
Solar for Schools – September 2020
Solar for Nonprofits – July 2020
WHY ARE NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS GOING SOLAR?
SOLAR ENERGY PROMOTES A CLEANER, HEALTHIER WISCONSIN
LOWER ENERGY COSTS MEANS MORE MONEY FOR MISSIONS AND PROGRAMS
ENERGY LEADERSHIP INSPIRES AND ENGAGES THEIR COMMUNITIES
Beth Israel Center
Madison, WI | 64 kW System | $3,000 Grant
By significantly reducing our carbon footprint, this project affirms our commitment to the traditional teaching of Tikkun Olam – the notion that we are responsible for ‘repair of the world.
Steve Goldstein, Beth Israel Center
Catholic Youth Expeditions
Baileys Harbor, WI | 20.3 kW System | $10,000 Grant
Our monthly energy bills have been cut in half, drastically reducing our operating expenses.
Father Quinn Mann, Catholic Youth Expeditions
Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin
Racine, WI | 19.8 kW System | $10,000 Grant
We truly appreciate and want to thank everyone who has helped this project come to fruition. We look forward to reducing our Ecological footprint and in turn taking the money that would normally go to utility bills and using it for our homeless recovery programs here at the Outreach.
Jeff Gustin, Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, WI | 20.3 kW System | $10,000 Grant
This serves as a tangible opportunity for the students to learn about how energy works, why renewable energy is important, and how we can all have a positive impact on the environment through the decisions we make.
Catie Malcheski, SunVest Solar
First Congregational Church
Oshkosh, WI | 19.3 kW System | $10,000 Grant
What I found especially exciting was that, as the campaign progressed, putting in solar panels became a higher and higher priority for us. In the end, installing the solar panels was the very first project we completed, and it’s been a joy to track our production of electricity ever since.
Reverend Nancy Taylor, First Congregational Church
Sinsinawa, WI | 250 kW System | $20,000 Grant
We recognize Sinsinawa Mound as a sacred place entrusted to our care. With that in mind, we are taking a step forward in reducing our carbon footprint through solar energy.
Ray Hess, Sinsinawa Mound