About Us

CollectiveSun is proud to be the only company in America that exclusively helps nonprofits fund solar projects nationwide. CollectiveSun was founded in 2011 on the principle all nonprofits should have access to solar power. Our team of experts understand the financing challenges nonprofits face better than anyone else. Our proprietary funding models were designed to minimize your nonprofit’s time and effort while guaranteeing the least expensive funding options available. IRS rules unfairly dictate nonprofits are excluded from utilizing tax benefits because of their tax exempt status. However, CollectiveSun’s innovative financing model applies tax credits that reduce the cost of your nonprofits solar project by 15%!

  • CollectiveSun can reduce ANY solar installer’s bid by 15% on projects 20 kW or greater
  • CollectiveSun can help finance solar projects for ANY nonprofit nationwide
  • CollectiveSun will ALWAYS offer the least expensive funding options
  • CollectiveSun does not attach any liens to the nonprofit’s property
  • CollectiveSun can use one or ANY combination of the payment options below to fund projects

There Are Basically 5 Options to Fund a Solar Project

  • 1. Ask supporters for donations
  • 2. Use reserves
  • 3. Apply for a PACE solar loan
  • 4. Traditional bank loans, Wall Street investors, Program Related Investments (PRIs)
  • 5. CollectiveSun’s Proprietary CrowdLending Campaign – a direct loan from supporters of the nonprofit with principal and interest repaid annually using the savings from the solar project. Because it’s a direct loan between the nonprofit and its supporters (investors), the interest rate can be set at the discretion of the nonprofit (0% - 10%).


Prepaid Power Purchase Agreements (PPA)

Under traditional “full cost” PPAs, a large bank, a Wall Street Investor or another unaffiliated entity is profiting from the financing of your nonprofit’s solar project. CollectiveSun’s “Prepaid” PPAs differ because they are funded by community members who profit from the transaction, thereby keeping dollars in the community.


Regardless of who is funding your project, someone’s making money on the transaction.

CollectiveSun believes the community members should be that "someone" because…

  • 1. The community will evaluate the default risk of their nonprofit lower than a traditional financing company and will accept a lower interest rate.
  • 2. Keeping dollars local and having supporters of the nonprofit benefit is better than sending profits to a large bank or a Wall Street investor.


Another way of looking at it

Getting financing from a large bank or traditional solar financing company means your nonprofit is going to be paying a lot more in the long run because banks categorize nonprofits as "risky" investments and to mitigate the perceived risk, they attach exceptionally high interest rates to the transaction. Going to your community and using the CollectiveSun CrowdLending platform means your nonprofit will pay substantially less and your community members are the ones that will benefit.


Donations

CollectiveSun believes the time to ask for donations is when your investors are receiving their loan repayments. During the annual loan repayment notification process, when CollectiveSun informs community members their loan repayments are arriving and how much principal and interest they’ve earned during the year, we offer them an opportunity to donate all or a portion of their repayments back to the nonprofit they love and support. This unique component of CollectiveSun’s CrowdLending campaign provides nonprofits with an opportunity to “double dip” from a singular investment. The nonprofit receives the initial loan amount to fund the solar project and then charitable donations are received when these same funds are paid back annually to the investors.


Sample Project

A church in New York wanted to reduce their energy bills with clean, renewable energy. They also wanted to demonstrate their commitment to Creation Care Theology by supporting environmental causes. They decided to use an installer who gave them a bid of $200,000 for a 60kW system that will reduce their energy bill by 75%. The pastor looked at all available funding options. He didn’t have enough money in reserves to pay for the system outright. Two banks told him his loan request was too risky with a third bank offering an 11% loan. The pastor didn’t want to go to his supporters asking for another round of donations. Instead, he decided to utilize CollectiveSun’s CrowdLending campaign which allowed the pastor to ask his supporters for a loan to fund the solar project. He informed his supporters that he wanted the Church to become more fiscally responsible by lowering operating expenses with solar. At the same time he explained that the Church would become a better shepherd of the earth (Creation Care Theology). He informed his supporters the loan would be paid back annually over 10 years with a 5% return on their investment, the church would take possession of the system at no additional cost in just 6 years, the Prepaid PPA would allow the church to lock in a discounted energy rate 75% less than what they were currently paying for 25+ years which protects them against any utility rate increases. Best of all, the church only needed to raise $170,000 because CollectiveSun was able to apply tax credits to reduce the cost by 15% (a $30,000 saving). That’s money they could use to build a new playground. At the end of the 25+ year life of the solar system, this church will end up saving $500,000 or more!

When asked for his opinion at a Board a meeting CollectiveSun attended a very excited Pastor responded: “You mean to tell me CollectiveSun allows my Church to utilize the tax credits I otherwise couldn’t, I don’t have to once again go to my flock and ask them for more donations, any money given is a loan they’ll get back with interest, and the annual repayments on that loan are sometimes donated back to the church?” Answer: YES

If you too would like to learn how much money CollectiveSun can save your nonprofit, click here.


Team Members

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Lee Barken, CPA, LEED-AP is the Chief Community Officer at CollectiveSun®, LLC. He has broad industry experience in renewable energy project finance, environmental commodities consulting and public policy analysis. He is dedicated to helping nonprofits develop economically viable energy projects. Lee writes and speaks on the topics of renewable energy project finance, social ventures and community financing. Lee plays an active role on the board of directors of CleanTECH San Diego, The San Diego Venture Group, and Grid Alternatives. Lee received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from San Diego State University where he graduated with honors and academic distinction.

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Matthew Brennan is the VP of Operations at CollectiveSun®, LLC. He is a solar installation expert with experience in both residential and commercial projects. In addition to being a talented entrepreneur, Matt's has a strong engineering and technical background. His experience includes founding SanDiegoSolarPower.com, a solar sales and procurement company with extensive market reach. Prior to SanDiegoSolarPower.com, he worked as an industrial engineer for a network equipment manufacturer, a sales engineer for electronic equipment manufacturers and an operations manager for an industry-leading mechanical engineering magazine. He brings his passion for solar power to CollectiveSun®, where Matt manages all aspects of installer relationships and project development. Matthew received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire.

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Todd Bluechel is the Vice President of Marketing and Sales at CollectiveSun®, LLC. Mr. Bluechel brings over 14 years in the alternative energy sector to CollectiveSun having worked as the Director of Marketing and Sales for a Waste-to-Energy Company that utilizes a disruptive pyrolytic gasification technology. Mr. Bluechel is the President and Founder of Fish. Food. Feel Good., America’s only sustainable fishing charity, a first of its kind 501c3 that collects migratory sport caught pelagic fish from fishermen and distributes them to local charities including: the San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Rescue Mission, Urban Angels, Jewish Family Services, Kitchens for Good, Dreams for Change, Imperial Valley Food Bank, and Father Joe's Village, feeding over 80,000 annually for free. Mr. Bluechel utilizes his expertise in the alternative energy industry, the nonprofit sector, and his six years in media, marketing films and television, to educate and promote the financial, social and environmental benefits of CollectiveSun's impact investing platform for all nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Kathy Myers

Kathy Myers, MA, is the Campaign Manager at CollectiveSun®, LLC. She has organized campaigns to activate communities for Polar Bears International, National Parks Conservation Association, and zoos and aquariums across the USA. As a nonprofit leader and consultant, she has served the arts and culture community; TEDxSanDiego; for-purpose, social enterprise companies; and, a military family support organization. She is a writer for web, print, and video. She currently serves on the board of Every Monday Matters. Kathy has a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from University of San Diego and a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Irvine.