Supporting the Veterans of Foreign War Communities through Solar
By Savannah Kinzer, Investment Intern
Sunwealth was founded on the idea that all people and businesses should have the ability to go solar. Our business model was intentionally designed to address the barriers that prevent solar access, which is why we were excited to partner with Team Solar, a local developer that seeks to make solar accessible to a diversity of mission-driven non-profits. We recently had the chance to speak with CEO and Co-founder of Team Solar, James Neal, to discuss some of their projects with the Veteran of Foreign War (VFW) community and Veteran based organizations.
James’s first VFW project is in New Bedford, Massachusetts, owned and managed by Quartermaster, Paul Guilbert. Like many VFWs across our country, New Bedford’s has struggled financially in recent years. After speaking with Paul about some of the Post’s recent challenges, it became clear to James that many VFWs are suffering from declining memberships due to an aging veteran population and general lack of interest among younger military service members. “Paul once had close to 1,000 members, and they’re now down to just a couple hundred,” says James. Rising utility rates in Massachusetts have additionally impacted the New Bedford Post’s revenue stream, but Team Solar and Sunwealth have designed a model to ensure Paul’s Post and other VFWs don’t have to worry about their utility bill when trying to provide services to veterans and their families.
Helping Paul’s Post go solar has saved their VFW thousands of dollars yearly on their utility bill. This is additional revenue that provides funding for mental and physical health treatments, money for scholarships, or help to families of the organization pay for funerals. “We realized that supporting and helping these organizations is perhaps equally as important as our core mission of helping promote environmental sustainability,” says James.
In addition to membership dues, many VFWs obtain additional revenue from their on-site bars or renting out their spaces for events. A recent project Team Solar is currently developing will place an awning over an outdoor bocce ball court at a local VFW. Not only will this make the bocce ball court more accessible on hot summer days, but the awning will provide an additional area to hold events, providing an entirely new revenue stream for the VFW.
Sunwealth and Team Solar want to see solar on top of every good solar roof, not just on those that can afford the upfront costs. “We could just go buy a lot, mow down trees, and put solar there, but instead we give nonprofits an opportunity to use space that’s already there – their rooftops – and earn revenue from it,” says James. The nonprofit rents its rooftop to Sunwealth in return for lease payments or net metering credits that offset its utility bill.
This financial model also helps companies like Team Solar achieve their mission. “It helps us grow our business – giving us a viable third-party payer option when a great organization wants solar but can’t afford the upfront installation costs,” says James.
Since developing the New Bedford VFW project, Team Solar has now worked with over 14 different veterans organizations; Sunwealth has been proud to finance a good portion of these projects. We are proud to partner with local developers like Team Solar, who are driven to help small, local, and mission-based organizations improve their bottom lines while providing more clean and green energy to the world.
About the Author
Savannah Kinzer is an Investment Associate Co-op at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. She is passionate about democratizing the renewable energy economy to provide an equitable and sustainable future for all.