FAQs

CollectiveSunTM, LLC, was created by seasoned professionals with deep domain expertise in finance and renewable energy. You can learn more about CollectiveSunTM at our About Us page.
When nonprofits work with CollectiveSun, they're able to take advantage of tax credits to reduce any solar instalers bid by 15% (the project must be at least 50kW and the utility providing energy to the nonprofit must allow PPAs). After CollectiveSun has reduced the instalers bid by 15%, the next question is how does the nonprofit fund the remaining 85%. One of the options CollectiveSun allows is called CrowdLending, which is when supporters of the nonprofit “invest” in the funding of a solar project. When a supporter of a nonprofit "invests" in a CrowdLending campaign to fund the remaining 85%, they get their investment back and at any rate and term the nonprofit decides. CollectiveSun doesn’t care what the interest rate or term the nonprofit choses. We’ve done campaigns with a 0% interest rate and ones with a 10% interest rate and everything in-between. It does not matter to CollectiveSun. CrowdFunding on the other hand is just a fancy word for donations. CrowdFunding supporters give their hard earned money to a nonprofit to help fund “something” in this case, a solar project but the supporters do not get their money back. When nonprofits don’t take advantage of the tax credits available to them by working with CollectiveSun, they're leaving money on the table. Why should any noprofit pay 100% when they can pay 85% for the exact same solar system?
Our project page lists our currently available projects. If your favorite nonprofit is not listed there, please ask the nonprofit you support to contact us so they too can learn how CollectiveSun can apply tax credits to reduce their solar installers bid by 15%.
Yes, the minimum investment is $250.
Due to the risks involved with this type of investing, you are limited in how much you can invest during any 12-month period in these transactions. The limitation on how much you can invest depends on your net worth and annual income. If either your annual income or your net worth is less than $100,000, then during any 12-month period, you can invest up to the greater of either $2,000 or 5% of the lesser of your annual income or net worth. If both your annual income and your net worth are equal to or more than $100,000, then during any 12-month period, you can invest up to 10% of annual income or net worth, whichever is less, but not to exceed $100,000 or all crowdfunding offerings in any 12-month period.
No. Investments are not tax deductible. However, if you choose to donate proceeds from your investment, you may be able claim tax deductions. Please contact your tax adviser for details on your personal tax situation.
No. The investments are not FDIC insured and may lose their value.
Yes. The IRS requires the reporting of interest income. In order to receive interest payments, an annual 1099 filing is provided to the IRS including your social security number. You will receive a copy of this form. For security purposes, your social security number is not included in the copy you receive.
If the funding goal is not reached, the funds will be returned. During the campaign, the funds are kept in escrow for this purpose.
The nonprofit is contractually obligated to not to permit any interference to sunlight for the solar system and may not create structures that could cause interference.
All nonprofits and tax exempt entities are eligible. Government agencies can participate, as can HOAs and other tax exempt organizations.
While it is not an absolute requirement for the nonprofit to own the building, they would need to have a long term lease.
We believe in nonprofits and we believe in community service. We serve on nonprofit boards, we’ve founded nonprofits ourselves, and our parents have founded nonprofits. We also believe that “nonprofit” is a tax designation, not a business plan. Nonprofits can make a profit, they simply are exempt from paying taxes on that profit because of their charitable mission. Robust and effective organizations that can lock in a low cost of energy for 20 years are more fiscally responsible and less likely to become insolvent. We believe nonprofits are the backbone of any community and strong nonprofits create strong, vibrant and resilient communities.
Yes! We can serve nonprofits in all 50 states as long as the utility company providing energy to the nonprofit allows PPAs.
CollectiveSun works with communities of faith, such as Churches, Synagogues and Mosques, as well as other tax exempt organizations such as private/charter schools, transitional/supportive housing, arts & culture organizations, veterans organizations, animal shelters, food banks and other community service organizations. We can also serve home owners associations, golf clubs and other tax exempt associations.
Contact us and share your story. We’d like to learn about your nonprofit and its renewable energy goals so we can share with you the ways CollectiveSun can reduce the cost of your solar project by 15%.
The way things typically happen is the nonprofit will contact CollectiveSun and discuss their needs. If the nonprofit already has an installer they want to work with the nonprofit will as that installer to contact CollectiveSun and answer some basic questions which will be used to create the PPA Agreement. If the nonprofit does not have an installer, and would like help finding an installer, CollectiveSun has a nationwide data base of quality installers we can refer to the nonprofit. Likewise, once the nonprofit selects what installer they want to use, that installer will contact CollectiveSun and answer questions which will be used to create the PPA Agreement. 
Yes! CollectiveSun was honored by a “Cool Congregations” award from Interfaith Power and Light. In addition, we were honored by the Rocky Mountain Institute for our work to build the solar array at their RMI Innovation Center.
LCOE is an industry standard method for measuring the cost of energy. Simply stated, it is the total dollars going out divided by the total kWh coming in. That ratio produces a simple cost per kilowatt hour. If that cost is lower than the current utility cost, a project makes economic sense. If not, the project is not economical. The LCOE represents the cost of power which is a known and dependable number. This contrasts greatly with savings numbers which are based on estimates and wildly unreliable. By focusing on LCOE, a nonprofit can deal with known values and make sound economic decisions. LCOE is particularly important if the nonprofit is comparing a traditional PPA and CollectiveSun’s prepaid PPA. To get an LCOE value for a traditional PPA you have to add up all the monthly payments for the entire PPA term (usually 20 years), including any escalator price increases, and any balloon payment amount at the end of the term (a price the nonprofit must pay to purchase the system) and divide by number of kW hours expected in the 25 year warranty life. To get an LCOE value for CollectiveSun’s prepaid PPA you simply take the prepaid PPA amount (85% of the installer cost) and divide by the number of kW hours expected in the 25 year warranty life. After determining the LCOE for both options you’ll understand why so many nonprofit organizations praise CollectiveSun for having the lowest possible cost.
Most commercial and residential renewable energy projects enjoy significant tax benefits. Tax credits are similar to “gift cards” with the IRS. If a for-profit company has a $100 tax obligation and it possesses a $100 “gift card”, it can use that tax credit to meet its tax obligation and owe nothing. Nonprofits, by definition, are tax exempt entities which never have an obligation to the IRS. Hence, these “gift cards” are useless to nonprofits.
CollectiveSun is able to utilize tax credits and benefits that are otherwise unavailable to nonprofit organizations if they were to try to fund the project themselves. Nonprofits, by definition, have no tax appetite so it is not possible for them to utilize tax credits. However, CollectiveSun’s proprietary funding model allows us to utilize tax credits and pass the savings through to the nonprofit in the form of a 15% reduction off the cost of the entire solar system.
Although federal tax credits are not available to nonprofits (unless they work with CollectiveSun) there may be other state or local incentives that are applicable to your project. You can find more information at the DSIRE website: http://www.dsireusa.org. Any benefits like SREC go to the benefit of the nonprofit.
Simply put – the sooner you get solar, the sooner your nonprofit will start to enjoy its benefits! If you wait for some unproven technology down the road, you will have missed the opportunity to enjoy lower energy costs today.
The cost of a solar system is based on many factors including system size and onsite energy needs. Since CollectiveSun utilizes a prepaid PPA, our cost will always be a 15% discount to the cost charged by the solar installer. Please contact us to learn more.
Since each project is different, it is difficult to answer this question without first reviewing the prior 12 months of energy usage data and developing projections for future energy cost savings. Your selected solar installer will perform a full engineering and financial analysis and provide these answers in their proposal. If you need help finding a reputable installer in your area please contact us, we can use our nationwide contacts to help.
Funding the prepaid PPA is very flexible. The nonprofit can pay for the system any way they wish including: a Bank loan, utilize reserves, solicit donations or ask for loans from community members. CollectiveSun can facilitate any of these or a combination of these options. However, our experience is banks attach high interest rates to their loans, nonprofits often prefer to leave reserves for rainy days and use donations for other needs. Going to the community with a CrowdLending campaign provides a new and vibrant avenue to engage members. Lending doesn’t impact other charitable giving because it competes with investment options such as savings accounts, CDs and the volatile stock market. Our proprietary CrowdLending methodology and dedicated campaign managers will assist you throughout the process to ensure a successful campaign. To date, CollectiveSun is proud to say our CrowdLending campaigns have a 100% success rate raising funds needed. 
Absolutely. There is no other company in America that offers what we do.
A solar fund dedicated to CollectiveSun projects will own the solar system for the first 6 years. After the nonprofit becomes the owner, after the 6 years, all warrenties are transfered to the nonprofit including the 10 year installer warranty, the 20 year inverter warranty and 25 year solar panel warranty.
Absolutely not. If a nonprofit is the original purchaser, (i.e. if it buys a solar system directly from the installer), it loses all of the tax benefits. If the nonprofit works with CollectiveSun and becomes the second owner, it can access these benefits and save a lot of money.
A CrowdLending campaign is an organized effort to identify community members to participate in (fund) a solar project. Instead of asking for a donation, the nonprofit asks for a loan which is paid back in full with annual principal and interest payments using the savings from the solar project.
In general, these two terms and their subsequent efforts require an ask from the supporters of the nonprofit, but the main difference is that a crowdfunding campaign asks for donations while CollectiveSun’s CrowdLending campaigns ask for a loan. This loan is an investment that is paid back with interest.
CollectiveSun operates a unique CrowdLending platform that allows community members to participate in the project as an investment, not a donation. This means they receive annual principal and interest payments from the savings created by the solar project.
The loans are made directly to the nonprofit (but held in a 3rd party escrow) and are paid back to the investors utilizing the CollectiveSun platform which provides all the loan accounting and payment processing services. Payments will be made via ACH and deposited into the account that originated the investment. Investors have the opportunity to change their ACH details if they’d like the payment made to a different account at some future date.
Yes. Once the project is fully funded, the campaign is over. This means the project could be funded by one person or a large number of people.
No.
The minimum investment amount is $250. There is no maximum amount.
No. However, if a portion of the investment repayment is donated back to the nonprofit, it can be considered tax deductible. Please check with your tax advisor for additional details.
Yes. Each year, community investors have the opportunity to donate any portion of their principal and interest payment back to the nonprofit.
Yes, it is completely legal to offer a loan to a nonprofit organization that helps them reduce their operating expenses and then offer to donate some portion back to the nonprofit. Note, however, that donations of repayments cannot be contractually obligated. It is completely up to the lender what they wish to do with their annual repayments on a year to year basis.
Yes, including escrow and ACH Payment processing / Investor management / Background checks for anti-money laundering and PATRIOT act compliance.
A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is an agreement to buy solar as a service instead of buying panels as a product. This is similar to hiring a landscaper to take care of your lawn instead of buying a lawn mower and keeping it maintained. Since nonprofits cannot access tax credits available to the owner of the solar asset, this is a unique circumstance where it is counterintuitively less expensive to purchase a service than to own a product. A Prepaid PPA is a PPA where the host pays for all of the kilowatt hours in advance. With CollectiveSun’s CrowdLending platform, we finance the PPA prepayment with loans from community investors. Paying in advance with funds borrowed from the community provides significant cost savings over borrowing from a Bank or Wall Street investor.
With a Prepaid PPA, the kilowatt hours are paid in advance. With a traditional PPA, a Bank or Wall Street investor provides the debt to fund the solar installation and are repaid over time as the host pays for energy as it is delivered. Traditional (full cost) PPA is 200% more expensive than a prepaid. By their very nature, community investors are much more comfortable with the risk of insolvency of their nonprofit and view that risk as low. A 3rd party Bank or Wall Street investor is purely financially motivated and views nonprofits as high risk, to mitigate this risk Banks attach high interest rates to their loans. Going to the community for a loan is a substantially less expensive option, it keeps the dollars local and it generates a sense of goodwill and pride from the investors who love and support their nonprofit. CollectiveSun has heard time and time again, one of the biggest challenges nonprofits face is retaining members / supporters. Nonprofit leaders continue to share with us their love for the CrowdLending model that prefunds the PPA because of the intrinsic benefits. Once a supporter becomes an investor in the nonprofit, they are much more likely to stay actively involved, attend events, mass, meetings, etc. and their participation has a positive trickle-down effect.
Our Prepaid PPAs are very simple for the host. There is a prepayment made and then the nonprofit becomes the owner of the solar system after 6 years.
Yes. Many customers feel the pride and peace of mind of solar that ‘pays for itself’ as soon as the system powers on. From a financial point of view, solar is immediately cash-flow positive if financed. With multi-billion dollar grid improvement projects already in place one thing for certain is that energy rates will continue to increase. Meanwhile, with solar in place, your nonprofit will be able to enjoy a significant reduction in the amount of money spent on energy.
Interest rates vary per project in a range from 0% - 10%, but are typically in the 4%-5% range. The lower the interest rate, the more savings are achieved by the nonprofit, but the more difficult it is to attract community participation. The nonprofit has the final word on which interest rate is selected, however, we prefer to see lower interest rates since this generates the most savings for the nonprofit.
Solar production is seasonal. More power is generated during the summer months, less power is generated during the winter months. Hence, production is typically evaluated on an annual basis.
Some utility rates increase the cost per kilowatt hour as more kilowatt hours are consumed. This structure is designed to encourage conservation as the more you use, the more expensive the incremental kilowatt hours become.
A watt is a unit of measure that represents electricity in a circuit. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts. Let’s say, for example, that there were 100 LED lights and each one was rated at 10 watts. They would total 1,000 watts. If all 100 lights were left on for one hour, they would consume 1 kilowatt hour (kWh).
During the period that it owns the system, our solar fund is responsible for everything including all operations, monitoring and maintenance. Once the nonprofit becomes the owner, all warranties are transferred to the nonprofit as well as the responsibilities of ownership
Yes. During the period that it owns the system, the solar fund has a reserve in place and is responsible for all services. This reserve covers the cost of operations and maintenance.
An escalator is an annual increase in PPA rate. Installers often use this as a way to lower the year 1 PPA rate and hide the true cost of the PPA. Even a small escalator can result in PPA rates that are 200% more expensive by the end of the PPA term. CollectiveSun does not use PPA escalators.
No. An escalator is an increase in the annual PPA rate. Escalators can often be found in installer bids as a way to make their project costs look less expensive in the short term but in the long term, bids with escalators are much more expensive to the nonprofit. CollectiveSun does not use escalators.
CollectiveSun can work as fast as your nonprofit will let us work. We typically can provide you with a free and detailed proposal within 24-48 hours after reviewing your installer’s bid.
Net metering is an energy policy that allows solar generators to feed excess power into the grid (effectively spinning the meter backwards) and get a credit for energy consumed at a future date. 
Yes. Net metering has been under attack throughout the country because it hurts profit margins for the big utility companies. Some areas have already eliminated it entirely. Others are considering changes. Regardless of which changes happen, they most certainly will not be in your best interests. CollectiveSun doesn’t like being pushy when encouraging nonprofits to act but it is important your nonprofit understands the sooner they act the more likely they’ll get grandfathered in under current regulations. Your nonprofit’s ability to be grandfathered in is based on one date, the day your solar power system is turned on. Please contact us as soon as possible so we can help you save the most money possible.
No. If the nonprofit is in a longer term lease, it is often possible to go solar under a Prepaid PPA.
No. We work with leading industry installers. These installers are closely scrutinized and vetted to ensure quality workmanship and corporate longevity.
CollectiveSun utilizes our industry experience and market intelligence to offer the best installer options. However, the nonprofit retains the right to make the final decision on which solar installer is selected.
Great. Please email us the one bid you want to use so we can create a financial proposal demonstrating how much money we can save you.
CollectiveSun has a team of experts that take all the worry out of a project by working with the installer to help identify the best equipment for the nonprofit. However, the nonprofit retains the right to make the final decision on which equipment is selected.
CollectiveSun has worked with several panel manufacturers. Each project is unique and will be evaluated on a case by case basis, however, we require “Tier 1” panels with “bankable” panel manufacturers.
Solar panels are warrantied for 25 years but will likely last beyond 25 years, albeit with some performance degradation.
CollectiveSun has worked with several inverter manufacturers. Each project is unique and will be evaluated on a case by case basis, however, we require “Tier 1” inverters with “bankable” inverter manufacturers.
CollectiveSun will assess and identify panels with the right mix of optimal efficiency/cost. It's possible to get slightly higher power panels (i.e. SunPower), but the increased production may or may not be cost justified based on the facts and circumstances of the particular installation.
CollectiveSun provides a full suite of payment processing and loan accounting tools including background checks on each lender in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
Nothing. The Prepaid PPA agreement is with a dedicated and isolated solar fund. If a nonprofit engaged CollectiveSun to perform a CrowdLending campaign, we would be responsible for loan accounting and payment processing functions. Since the loan is between the nonprofit and the community investors, an insolvency of CollectiveSun does not affect the status of the loans. CollectiveSun does have a backup loan servicing provider in place in the unlikely event that CollectiveSun was unable to provide this service.
CollectiveSun can accommodate projects that are 20kW or larger. Please contact us for more details.
This is a great question that can only be answered after reviewing the energy consumption patterns and solar conditions for a specific project. Please contact us so we can learn more about your nonprofit’s solar objectives.
Yes. Solar canopy structures add incremental cost to a solar project but may be cost justified in some scenarios. Please contact us for more details as each project is unique.
When you contact CollectiveSun, we will help identify 3 industry leading solar installers who can perform a preliminary review of your building and available solar resources. Please contact us for more details.
Yes. Roofs must be in good condition. Contact us for more information about the specifics of your project.
No. The ideal roof orientation is 196 degrees on the compass (known as ‘solar south’), but an installation of +/- 50 degrees (155 -245) is also fine. Within this range, power output stays within seven or eight percent of maximum. Even more easterly and westerly roof installations are viable, especially on shallower roofs. For example, a 7/12 roof that is due east or due west still achieves 77% of a system’s potential performance. More important than angle, generally, is shading. We don’t want to see any shading on a solar roof from 9 am to 4 pm, year-round. Technological improvements such as micro inverters can compensate for shading issues to some extent. The best way to know for certain if your roof is viable for solar is to contact us for a free solar evaluation.
No. Solar panels are typically mounted on a purpose-built aluminum rail system that is fastened about every four feet by penetrations into roof rafters. On a standing seam metal roof, these attachments are made directly to the standing seams, with no roof penetrations. On asphalt roofs, each mount is sealed with 50-year Tripolymer sealant to prevent any leaks. Roof work is guaranteed by the installer to be free from leaks. As for the weight of the array, it is less than 5 pounds per square foot, so a typical framed roof is more than adequate to carry the weight.
Every kilowatt of solar array takes about 75 square feet.
Shading adversely affects solar generation. Hence, it is best to minimize the impact of any shading.
No. Snow and ice are a reality of installing solar arrays in the Northeast and we design our systems to withstand the toughest weather we get. The reality is, after a snowstorm, your solar panels will be covered in snow. Don’t panic! Usually they ‘self-clear’ quite well on the next sunny day. On an annual basis, the amount of energy production loss due to snow is fairly minor.
Yes. Solar does work in foggy locations. An initial proposal will evaluate the weather conditions in your area including the impact of fog.
While the idea of cutting ties with the electric company may seem romantic, in reality it is anything but practical except for very specific cases (generally when utility power is not available and prohibitively expensive to install).
Yes. The cost effectiveness of storage will vary on a case by case basis. Please contact us for more details.
No. All solar projects that are grid interconnected are required to shut down in the event of a power failure. This is for the protection of utility employees who could be in danger if solar power is allowed to backfeed onto the grid in a power outage scenario.
Interfaith Power and Light is a national nonprofit organization that supports communities of all faith traditions exploring solar and energy efficiency. They partner with CollectiveSun and offer resources for communities of faith who are exploring the theologies related to solar power and climate change. Please visit their website at: http://interfaithpowerandlight.org
Creation Care is a theological response to climate change that embraces world religions and how their philosophies apply to caring for the planet.
By reading this FAQ, we can tell that you are already a solar champion. Please contact us to learn more about how we can work together!
The roofing cost (or a portion thereof) can be included in tax basis and eligible for the 15% discount as long as:
1. The roof work being performed is under or in close proximity to the energy equipment.
2.  The included cost does not exceed 10% of the overall project cost.  
Solar Support Structures (often referred to as "carports") can generally be included in tax basis and eligible for the 15% discount but will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
A Storage system (when combined with solar) will be eligible for a 15% discount to the extent that it is ITC eligible. To be considered ITC eligible, the storage system must be charged by renewable sources a minimum of 75% of the time. If the storage system is charged 75% of the time by renewable energy, it will qualify for 75% of the 15% discount (11.25% discount). If the storage system is charged 100% of the time by renewable sources, it will qualify for the full 15% discount. Any amount between 75%-100% will qualify for the appropriate pro-rata percentage of the 15% discount.
Yes, projects can be "bundled" together if they are on the on the same or adjacent parcels.
  1. "We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!”

    —Remarks, meeting with political, business and community leaders, Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015
  2.  “God always forgives, we men forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives. If you give her a slap, she will give you one. I believe that we have exploited nature too much.”

    —Press conference, flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, January 15, 2015
  3. “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.”

    —Speech, Manila, Philippines, January 18, 2015
  4. “A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.”

    —Meditation, Vatican City, February 9, 2015
  5. “May the relationship between man and nature not be driven by greed, to manipulate and exploit, but may the divine harmony between beings and creation be conserved in the logic of respect and care.”

    —General audience, Vatican City, April 22, 2015
  6. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

    —Papal encyclical, Vatican City, May 24, 2015  
  7. “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin.”

    —Speech, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015


Approved PV panel manufactures
Canadian Solar
First Solar
Hanwha Q-cells
Hyundai
JA Solar
Junko Solar
Kyocera
LG
Mitsubishi
Panasonic
Phono Solar
REC Solar
Renosola
Sharp
SunPower
Trina Solar
Yingli

Approved inverter manufactures

Enphase
Fronius
PV Powered
SMA
Solar Edge
Solectria