GiveSolar is a project of New Community Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
The Harrisonburg-based program of New Community Project is called Vine and Fig, and is located at 715 N. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22802. GiveSolar was founded with the generous support of a grant from the Merck Foundation’s Neighbor of Choice Program.
Jeff Heie is the director of GiveSolar. Jeff has been involved in advocating for clean energy since 2000. He has twenty years of skills and experience in advocacy, community organizing, networking, fundraising, and solar installing.
In November 2016, Jeff and Tim Godshall coordinated the first solar barn raising at the Gift & Thrift store in Harrisonburg, VA. Gift & Thrift is a thrift store that benefits the worldwide relief and development efforts of Mennonite Central Committee. The solar barn raising, which occurred on November 5, 2016, was a collaboration between Gift & Thrift, Secure Futures, the Harrisonburg Carpenters’ Guild, and the Voluntary Gas Tax.
Secure Futures, a certified B corporation, developed an innovative solar self-generation agreement (SGA) financing model to monetize federal tax credits. The solar barn raising, a tradition familiar to Mennonites and Amish, was used as a tool to reduce the cost of solar while increasing community awareness of the many benefits of solar. Secure Futures developed the novel way to organize a solar LLC so that ownership could transfer to a community member in the sixth year through an innovative partnership flip, thus avoiding a cost-prohibitive sale of assets.
On November 5, 2016, members of the community came together to support the nonprofit, installing solar panels (63 kW) on the roof of the building. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases and reliance on fossil fuels, the system will save Gift & Thrift more than $400,000 over the next thirty years, allowing them to more effectively achieve their core mission.
The success of this first solar barn raising made it clear that the idea had wings. If a community-powered solar project could work for one nonprofit, we thought, why not for others? And so GiveSolar was born. Since 2016, GiveSolar has organized crowdfunding campaigns and five solar barn raisings, which have added 291.4 kilowatts to our local grid.
In 2020, GiveSolar was asked by a board member of Central Valley Habitat for Humanity to collaborate on a pilot project that aims to install solar on HFH homes in the region. The concept of the Solar Seed Fund was born in order to make solar accessible on low-income homes and nonprofits.
GiveSolar offers solar solutions for nonprofit organizations and low-income households, providing electricity from the sun while reducing overhead costs and energy poverty by eliminating a large portion of electricity bills. We harness the community’s power to bring about positive change through crowdfunding and solar barn raisings.
Give Solar has created the movement of a Thousand Forward. We call on members of the community to offer financial and moral support to make solar accessible to nonprofits and low-income households.
In October of 2021, GiveSolar successfully completed the Solar Seed Fund project that raised over $127,000 to help Central Valley Habitat for Humanity to install solar on all the homes that they build through 2026.
GiveSolar’s next project is to assist Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the state of Virginia to develop and implement sustainable solar programs for the benefit of their partner families. Beginning December 1, 2021, GiveSolar will carry out a two-year project to implement solar programs within up to 10 Habitat affiliates in Virginia.
Contact Jeff Heie at [email protected].