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December 14, 2018

ReVision Energy launches fund to help nonprofits tap solar energy

Courtesy / ReVision Energy Through its new impact investment fund business, ReVision Solar Impact Partners, ReVision Energy built a solar array of 266 panels on the roof of Bristol Consolidated School in Pemaquid; the array produces 92,550 kWh of electricity annually.

ReVision Energy has started an impact investment fund business, ReVision Solar Impact Partners, to help nonprofits and municipalities acquire cost-effective solar energy.

The new company will allow nonprofits to acquire solar energy despite the fact they can’t take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit and an approximately 20% depreciation benefit available to tax-paying entities and homeowners, company co-founder Phil Coupe told Mainebiz.

ReVision Solar Impact Partners “solves this problem by attracting tax equity investors who can 'monetize' the tax benefits in a way that benefits nonprofits and municipalities,” he said.

ReVision Solar Impact Partners launched this year and has closed its first two inaugural funds, totaling $2.6 million. That funding resulted in roughly 1.1 megawatts of completed solar arrays for 13 nonprofits and municipalities from Kittery to Bucksport, as well as in New Hampshire. The nonprofits include social service agencies, low-income housing communities, schools, churches and municipalities.

Coupe told Mainebiz that those arrays are expected to offset roughly 1.3 million pounds of carbon population from regional fossil fuel power plant each year.

A third fund, which will build seven arrays, is due to close soon, he said. There will be five to eight funds in 2019, ideally totaling about $10 million in project development, he said. The fund business is looking for investors, he added.

“Our 'impact investing' approach is designed to appeal to investors who want to do well by doing good — that is, we give them a way to put their money to work that earns a modest return, but also creates the layered social benefits of helping nonprofits become more economically and environmentally sustainable, reducing carbon pollution and accelerating the clean energy transition by placing solar on highly visible community institutions,” he said.

Next-level investment

Courtesy / ReVision Energy
42-panel solar array at the nonprofit Unity Area Regional Recycling Center in Thorndike.

The investment fund business represents the next level of ReVision’s work to develop solar power arrays for entities unable to access credits.

In 2010, ReVision was the first company to bring the "solar power purchase agreement" model to Maine, according to the company’s website.

Solar PPAs are a structure whereby a host agrees to buy electricity generated by a solar array that’s financed and built by an investor. The investor takes tax credits and other incentives available for the solar equipment, and sells the power generated by the solar equipment to the host.

From 2010 to 2017, ReVision developed more than 100 nonprofit and municipal solar projects under the PPA model, with ReVision acting as the investor as well as the construction company.

The fund business identifies impact investors who want to invest in solar, and it creates a solar impact fund for the project. It also identifies nonprofits with viable locations for solar and develops offers to nonprofits with money from solar impact funds.

Coupe said he considers the model a win on several fronts: ReVision builds the solar project, nonprofits get a reduced electric bill and investors earn a modest rate of return.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that this will grow over time,” he said.

He noted that the first projects built eight years ago through the PPA model are working their way through buyouts of the systems.

“The nonprofits are buying the systems because the deal is incredibly good for them,” he said. “And we truly want it to be a great deal for them. When you’re doing this for a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter, the goal is to enable the nonprofit to better fulfill its mission.”

He added, "Our nonprofits and municipalities are working hard to improve the lives of all Mainers and I think of our solar impact work as an extension of those efforts. We are genuinely trying to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of these organizations, while simultaneously reducing carbon pollution and accelerating the clean energy transition."

ReVision became a certified B Corporation in 2015. The designation means the business is trying to create maximum positive societal impact rather than the traditional approach of maximizing shareholder returns.

In 2017, the company converted to 100% employee ownership. The company was named the No. 1 Rooftop Solar Installer in New England by Solar Power Industry magazine in September 2017.

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