Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicks off the redevelopment of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA at a “wall-breaking” ceremony. | Photo courtesy of The Solar Foundation

The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in Washington, D.C. will soon feature solar panels on its rooftop to help provide clean energy to its low-income residents. | Photo courtesy of The Solar Foundation

For homeowners and businesses alike, there are a variety of ways to have solar installations funded. While property owners have traditionally taken advantage of loans or lease agreements to go solar, many are finding that they qualify for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. PACE loans are repaid over terms as long as 20 years through an annual assessment on a business’s property tax bill. But historically, nonprofit organizations have been considered ineligible for PACE because they do not pay property taxes.

The Solar Foundation is leading a team that developed the CivicPACE program through an award from the SunShot Initiative. CivicPACE addresses the underwriting and access challenges of solar financing for tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, nonprofit affordable housing, community clinics, and education institutions. The SunShot-funded team has supported the development of CivicPACE in several states by providing policy recommendations; engaging stakeholders in the areas of financing, legal, solar and storage development, and nonprofit management; and implementing replicable pilot projects.

Thanks to this team’s hard work, PACE financing was used for the first time to fund renovations to a mixed-finance, low-income housing building. The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA affordable housing complex in Washington, DC is receiving $17 million in upgrades, which include the mounting of a 32-kilowatt solar energy system on the building’s roof. In addition, the building will add low-flow water fixtures, LED lighting, and Energy Star appliances to every unit. By adding these features, the building will reduce annual operating costs, nearly cut in half the amount of water it uses, and lower the total amount of energy consumed.

Utilizing PACE financing for this project’s solar and efficiency improvements is helping to make the new equipment affordable and is opening the door for similar tax-exempt organizations to do the same. The CivicPACE program continues to expand in other locations in the United States, giving nonprofits the opportunity to go solar and save money with clean energy.