Joint City of Boulder and Boulder County solar incentives program helps power local nonprofits.

Joint City of Boulder and Boulder County solar incentives program helps power local nonprofits

Boulder’s 300 sunny days each year are doing more than just lifting spirits — they are also helping us to better serve our community’s most vulnerable.

Thanks to joint solar incentives offered by the City of Boulder and Boulder County, and administered through Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE), more local nonprofit organizations will be able to leverage the abundant Colorado sunshine to meet energy needs and build climate resilience.

Through this innovative partnership, qualified, site-based, local nonprofits are eligible for upwards of $35,000 in additional funding to support their solar development. Income-qualified housing owned and operated by a nonprofit located within the city are also eligible for the grant.

Participation in the program is a win-win: Nonprofits can shrink their carbon footprint and their energy bills, allowing them to maximize the mission-focused dollars they spend to the benefit of our community. And these efforts also help Boulder to advance our goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

A one-stop solar shop

The City of Boulder’s solar grants program was born out of an effort spearheaded by former City Council member and local businessman, Richard Polk in the mid-2000s. The resulting Boulder Solar Rebate Ordinance paved the way for the successful and in-demand program in operation today.

The ordinance generates funds that support grants for the installation of solar electric and solar thermal systems at nonprofit facilities, low- and moderate-income housing owned by nonprofits, and individual residences owned by low- and moderate-income residents. PACE currently administers the program for businesses and nonprofits, and an update regarding the administration of the low- and moderate-income housing grant program will be coming soon.

The City of Boulder Nonprofit Solar Grant program is one of three incentives PACE offers to assist community nonprofits and businesses in meeting their solar needs:

  • PACE Solar Rebate: Boulder County businesses, nonprofits and multifamily housing are eligible to receive up to $15,000 to put toward their photovoltaic systems.
  • Nonprofit Solar Equity Grant: Boulder County nonprofits serving low-income populations are eligible for a $5,000 equity grant.
  • City of Boulder Nonprofit Solar Grant.

“We very intentionally consolidated these solar programs under the single, PACE umbrella to simplify the experience for our local nonprofits,” said City of Boulder Sustainability Coordinator Sandy Briggs. “We want to do everything we can to streamline the process and improve grant accessibility for these organizations that do so much to serve our community.”

Helping local nonprofits chart the course

Navigating the sustainability landscape is not always a straightforward venture, and it can be especially daunting for small businessowners and nonprofits — this is where PACE comes in to play.

Offering free expert advisor services and financial incentives, PACE guides local businesses, property owners and managers, and contractors in achieving their sustainability and clean energy benchmarks. The services PACE provides can help non-profits to holistically address their energy needs, including coupling solar projects with other savings opportunities available to them — both through PACE and through utility savings.

To date, PACE counts more than 3,500 Boulder County businesses as partners.

“PACE fills an important need for our business community, particularly our nonprofits and small businesses.” said City of Boulder Energy Manager Carolyn Elam. “Their leadership and expertise is key to helping our community businesses enhance both their sustainability efforts as well their bottom line.”

Solar-powered community service

Meals on Wheels of Boulder is one of the many local nonprofits that has benefitted from participation in the solar grants program.

The organization recently celebrated 50 years of serving Boulder community members with hot lunchtime meals and a friendly visit, regardless of age or income.

“We’ve been in the city of Boulder since 1969; we are a long-time organization here and have been supported by the city all along,” said President and CEO of Meals on Wheels of Boulder Francea Phillips. “The City of Boulder has been a wonderful partner with us for years and years.”

Once housed at the West Boulder Senior Center, a few years back, Meals on Wheels decided to build a space of their own. In fact, Boulder voters passed a sales tax extension giving the organization a grant to help finance this new space.

“Once we decided to build, one of the first things we talked about with our builder was ‘how can we be as energy efficient as possible?’” said Phillips. She explained that Meals on Wheels sought out renewable energy options, in part, for the environmental care of the community.

“I was adamant that we install solar, and so we found a solar company to work with us, and that’s when I learned about PACE and the solar grant program.”

Meals on Wheels applied for the grant and, in June 2019, the city approved their application, awarding the organization $17,000 toward the installation of a 25-kilowatt photovoltaic system.

They settled into their new office on May 1 this year.

The 68-solar-panel system is not only providing Meals on Wheels with clean, cost-effective energy, it is also helping them to spread the word about the benefits of solar power.

“I absolutely do believe that our solar installation is helping us to better serve the community — if it didn’t make sense for us to do it, we would not have done it!” said Phillips. “Anything we can do to lower expenses and be more efficient is always in our benefit, and I truly believe our solar program will do that.”

Phillips has been so pleased with her experience in the grant program that she is singing its praises to neighboring businesses.

“I’m a total fan and proponent of the grant program — we are so grateful for it,” said Phillips. “I think everyone should do it; if you’re going to build a building, it needs to have solar. Period.”

Learn more about the City of Boulder Nonprofit Solar Grant Program and apply today.