Nonprofits network for a brighter future

Anne BrockAnderson, Our Town Outdoors

Stretching a dollar to help more people in your community just got a boost from Uncle Sam, and nonprofits are networking about this all-over East Tennessee. This past week, various nonprofits gathered in both Oak Ridge and Morristown, all listening to details about federal 30% Direct Pay supporting solar.

Executive Director Ashley Hux invited various Hamblen County nonprofits at Central Services in Morristown for a monthly lunch-n-learn, where Solar Alliance VP Harvey Abouelata explained the ins and outs of planning for solar. The opportunity is greater now with the new federal incentive for nonprofits to see a faster return on their investment and long-term energy savings.

Hux said, “As a nonprofit over 50 years old, we have had our fair share of finding creative ways to save money so we can serve those in need. Exploring another option, such as solar power, just makes sense and feels like a good way for Central Services to explore new ways of sustainability so we can continue to serve the community for another 50 years.”

Abouelata shared the case study of installing solar at Faith Lutheran Church in Oak Ridge, where the new system is already producing electricity at about a third the cost of what they pay the local electric company. The church plans on using that federal incentive to receive money back, greatly reducing its overall system cost. While the Direct Pay feature is well-documented in the Inflation Reduction Act, nonprofits are still awaiting specific guidance from the Internal Revenue Service on how to apply for it.

Faith Lutheran leaders hosted an evening workshop for other churches and organizations this past week. Cost savings over time will support the church’s ongoing ministries. Yet, they shared that their motivation was not only to save money. “We want to be good stewards of our environment,” said the Rev. Chase LeFort, senior pastor.

Stepping up to share information at the evening workshop was Pathway Lending that offers low-interest energy loans for nonprofits and small businesses, Appalachian Solar Finance Fund that helps qualifying coal-impacted counties receive solar support, Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light that supports congregations in reducing energy usage, and Brugmansia Ministries, whose executive director, Josh Richardson, shared in a video message about renewable solar energy.

“I see an act of vital capacity building that will help our community survive the challenges of climate change. I see a world where we can produce enough electricity in difficult moments to make sure the vulnerable members among us get what they need,” Richardson said.

In both Oak Ridge and Morristown, Abouelata is spreading the word about questions to ask before considering solar, how to be sure it fits your organization’s needs, and how the process potentially works to save money.

If you’d like an educational workshop on solar for nonprofits or solar for small business, just let us know at the contact email below.

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for Solar Alliance. She can be reached at: 865-221-8349 or

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