Made up of a loosely knit group of volunteers, SolarYpsi provides free education about solar power, and also designs and installs PV systems in and around Ypsilanti, Michigan. Over the past decade, SolarYpsi has given presentations to about 5,000 people at various local events. We hope to make Ypsilanti a “solar destination”—a place to learn about solar power from hundreds of examples around town.
Early in 2015, a non-local benefactor contacted SolarYpsi wanting to fund more PV installations in Ypsilanti. Since SolarYpsi is not a 501(c)3, it was determined that the best course of action would be to put together a list of nonprofits interested in having a PV system and the donor would choose from the list.
Within a few days, SolarYpsi volunteers created a list of 14 organizations, selected based on suitability for a PV installation. Besides being a charitable organization, the nonprofit needed to have suitable space for a 5 kW grid-tied PV system. Another preference was that, once installed, the PV system would be visible to the public from the street.
The selected recipients included a public library, two community centers, a public high school, a health center, and a city-owned carport. All told, the donor contributed a total of $93,000.
Combining the projects into one large job was key to attracting competitive bids and eliminating administrative costs on the part of the recipient organizations. With SolarYpsi evaluating the bids, neither the donor nor the recipient groups needed to divert time away from their own work. Three local contractors submitted bids; the donor chose SUR Energy, which bid an average installation price of $3 per watt across all the locations. This was a much lower price than what the organizations could have obtained if each project had been bid separately.
PV installations are a great way to provide support for a nonprofit organization. Reducing an organization’s utility bills frees up money in their operating budget that can instead be used for their programs—it’s akin to having a 30-year annuity. A librarian summed it up like this: “Now we will have more money to buy books!” Beyond dollars and sense, PV installations provide positive visibility for the organization, serving as an example of the organization’s commitment to a brighter, better future.