by John Shaw
In a landmark move to promote renewable energy in faith-based communities, CollectiveSun Foundation, in partnership with the Interfaith Solar Campaign, has announced the establishment of a $4 million fund. This pioneering initiative is set to help fund approximately 25 to 30 solar projects for faith-based organizations in Oregon and Washington, providing a scalable model for similar endeavors across the United States.
The Cornerstone Fund of the United Christ Church provides access to funding to build these solar arrays in the form of a loan. Similar to a home equity loan, the money is available to the Interfaith Solar Campaign as projects get agreed on and built.
Lee Barken, Chief Community Officer at CollectiveSun, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, highlighted the unique challenges faced by faith-based organizations in securing traditional financing. This fund not only underscores the growing recognition of environmental stewardship as a vital aspect of faith-based community service but also provides a tangible pathway for churches to contribute actively to the fight against climate change. These resources allow CollectiveSun to buy the solar panels, install and maintain them, with churches only responsible for monthly lease payments. By accessing this funding, churches can mitigate the often-prohibitive costs associated with solar installations, thereby enabling them to divert more resources toward their community.
“Where most lenders see risk, we see vibrancy and strength,” Barken said. “This facility enables us to support these organizations in their renewable energy goals, recognizing their vital role in community service.”
The Interfaith Solar Campaign, co-led by Lou Stagnitto and retired United Methodist clergy, Rev. John Pitney, has played a critical role in helping several churches transition to solar energy. The new funding mechanism will expand these efforts, allowing the campaign to reach more congregations, including those in lower-income communities benefitting from the Inflation Reduction Act’s low-income communities bonus adder.
“This isn’t just about installing solar panels; it’s about faith communities leading the way in climate action,” said Pitney. “By collectively embracing renewable energy, we can make a significant impact, inspiring congregants and the broader community to engage in environmental stewardship.”
The solar projects supported by the credit facility extend beyond houses of worship, encompassing various facilities operated by faith-based organizations, like food banks, affordable housing, retirement communities, and more. These projects contribute to CollectiveSun’s extensive portfolio of over 200 completed solar projects for nonprofits across the U.S., more than half of which serve houses of worship.
The Interfaith Solar Campaign, which started as a grassroots initiative following the release of “An Inconvenient Truth,” has now grown into a significant movement within the Oregon-Idaho Conference and beyond. With the involvement of CollectiveSun Foundation, the campaign is set to create a wider impact, encouraging faith-based organizations nationwide to join the renewable energy transition.
“It’s not just about solar panels, but it’s about taking care of the earth and making a difference in the world,” Pitney said. “All creation is eagerly waiting for humanity to wake up and join in with life.”
For more information about the Interfaith Solar Campaign and potential involvement please visit https://interfaithsolar.org.