Promoting solar energy projects in your neighborhood


Catalyzing the transition to a greener, more sustainable and more resilient New York City

               White roof painting  Bus  Solar panels   Urban farm
     





Nonprofits can earn income while making their community greener and more resilient - by promoting solar power

Solar energy capacity in NYC is rising sharply, and city officials are working to make it quicker and easier to install solar systems.  Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight into electricity, and solar thermal systems use the sun to heat water.  By reducing the amount of coal, heating oil and Solar energy capacity in NYC is rising sharply and city officials are working to make it quicker and easier to install solar systems.  natural gas we use for those purposes, solar systems can save a lot of money, while reducing the carbon emissions that add to climate change. Also, as decentralized, distributed energy sources, solar systems are resilient – they can provide power even when regional energy grids are disrupted.  Community based organizations (CBOs) can speed up this process, and earn some income at the same time.  Here’s how. 

Solar power is a great deal for building owners. Government incentives and tax breaks for solar energy are better than ever: they will cover about 70 - 90% of the typical system installation cost!  Owners can customize the financing structure for their needs and preferences – for example, systems can be cash flow positive from day one.  The cost of solar panels has recently been reduced, making this an even more attractive deal. But many building owners don’t know about solar, or who they can trust to install systems and help them apply for financing.

What block associations, business groups and religious congregations have in common are their established reputations and networks of contacts.  Their leaders can pick up the phone and get through to local building owners and managers.  That wouldn’t be easy for service providers without neighborhood connections. 

So, common sense would predict that community based nonprofits can effectively promote sustainability initiatives.  We proved this in Long Island CityLIC Partnership called western Queens business owners to promote Con Edison’s Green Team energy efficiency surveys and equipment upgrades.  This retrofit program is a great deal for businesses but it's still a tough sell.  The businesses we referred to the program participated at much higher rates than those contacted only by program contractors.  Other nonprofits could do the same, but as a practical matter, they will do it only if there is financial incentive to make the extra effort. 

With solar energy, there’s a way to link installers, CBOs and building owners so that everyone benefits, and the connecting power of CBOs can be activated.  The potential benefit to installers from introductions to potential clients justifies offering nonprofits a referral fee of several percent of the cost of any completed projects that result from their efforts. That gives nonprofits the incentive to make those connections.  After signing referral agreements with several of NYC’s top solar installers, LIC Partnership contacted western Queens building owners.  Two of LICP’s referrals purchased systems, leading to lower energy costs for them – and fees for the organization. 

Is your group ready to lower the energy bills of your constituents, make your neighborhood greener and more resilient – and earn some income?   We’ll help you apply this approach in your own neighborhood.  Visit our website for a sample referral agreement, marketing materials, and project guidelines, free of charge. Everyone can win from increasing NYC’s solar capacity. Get started today!

Dan Miner, volunteer organizer
Beyond Oil NYC
beyondoilnyc@yahoo.com  
www.beyondoilnyc.org



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Efforts to increase NYC solar power capacity
 

To replace some of the electricity otherwise produced by burning coal and natural gas, NYC aims to speed up installation of rooftop mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems which convert sunlight into electricity. 

Since 2005, t
he amount of solar photovoltaic capacity installed within city limits has more than tripled, from 1.47 megawatts (MW) to 5.65 MW.  2011 estimates suggested the City could reach 45-70 MW of solar PV capacity within five years (p. 9).  In addition, solar thermal systems which heat water can displace some need to burn oil or natural gas to make hot water.  Solar thermal systems can be easier to install and cheaper than solar electric systems.

Removing obstacles, streamlining processes

A consortium of city and state government agencies and organizations - the NYC Solar America City Partnership - is working to streamline the complex and expensive process whereby systems are permitted, inspected and connected (p. 6).  In addition, new policies, programs, and incentives (pp. 18-19) will help the NYC solar market grow dramatically over the next several years. 

Government incentives and tax breaks typically cover about 70 - 90% of their installation cost.  One obstacle is that initial costs can be high.   Another is that determining the best financing option and
applying for it can be complex.  The solution for both issues is to enlist the aid of solar installers, who have professional expertise in navigating this process.   Even owners who are short on cash can get solar power, as some financing schemes involve no out-of-pocket costs and are cash-positive from day one.  Most solar installers will perform free onsite assessments and assist customers in applying for government benefits. 

How community groups can help spread solar power

Nonprofits can catalyze this process in their community.  When groups with established local reputations reach out to their contacts on behalf of a sustainability program, they are likely to get a much higher rate of participation than if the program provider does the outreach itself.  Long Island City Partnership demonstrated this in western Queens.  Of the companies it referred to Con Edison's Green Team energy efficiency program, 45% of those that signed up for free surveys went on to purchase recommended equipment upgrades, compared to 23% of LIC businesses contacted by Con Ed contractors alone, and a 15% City-wide average rate cited by contractors.


Here's our model.  Use it in your neighborhood.

Here are the basic steps for nonprofits that want to promote solar:  find solar installers, sign referral agreements with them, and reach out to local contacts. If  even a few customers who are referred go ahead and install solar projects, the nonprofit can earn modest but respectable referral fees, while generating positive press and educating their community about renewable power. 

Long Island City Partnership signed referral agreements with several respected PV installers.  The agreements provided LICP with a finder’s fee of 3% of the total cost of any project that came from a customer referred by the group.  LIPC sent out postal mailings and emails to western Queens building owners and business constituents.  Those who replied were referred to the installers.  So far two PV installations have been completed by LICP's referrals, with more in the pipeline. 

  • AMCC, a building construction firm, installed an 11.5 kilowatt (kW) solar PV system and a green roof on its new LEED rated building on Vernon Blvd.  

  • New Sensor Corp. a manufacturer of electronic equipment for the music industry, moved to the 90K s.f. former Budweiser distribution center in Hunters Point in 2011.  Last year, they installed a 50 kW solar photovoltaic power system.  Over two hundred 230 watt panels on their roof will produce over 50,000 kW hours of electricity a year.  New Sensor expects to recover its initial investment in just a few years. “We’re happy with the system,” says Tanya Thomas, assistant to the president.

Following the open source approach, we're making our model and referral agreement available to the public at no charge.  Remember, community groups can only use this approach with their own constituents.  For example, even if a nonprofit in Bayside, Queens got a list of contacts in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, residents of Bensonhurst wouldn't recognize the group or respond to their messages.   This solar referral model can be used by Business Improvement Districts, economic development groups, block associations, or religious congregations.  Any competition between groups with overlapping coverage areas will only increase public awareness and use of solar power.  We encourage you to try this in your neighborhood.  Of course, results will vary.  

- Find solar installers


Find certified NYC installers at www.nabcep.org - or through NY Solar Energy Society.  Interview several who have successfully completed residential and commercial projects similar to what will be found in your community. At LICP, we worked with Brightpower, Community Environmental Center, Earthkind, Green Logic, and Solar Energy Systems,

- Customize a solar referral agreement

Following are two sample agreements for your attorney to review.  Beyond Oil NYC offers them only for informational purposes and disclaims any liability.  
Consult your attorney to draft a referral agreement suitable for your unique organizational needs. 

- Contact your constituents


Candidates include building owners, long-term tenants in commercial buildings, and owners/tenants of multifamily residential properties.  Suitable buildings will have at least 3,000 square feet of roof space unobstructed by shade from trees, another building, vents, or rooftop equipment.  Roof space can be located and initially assessed using Google Maps or the NYC Solar Map.

Customize the promotional text below, which was confirmed as accurate by several NYC solar installers in spring 2013.  Use it to contact members of your community via postal mail, email, phone, and in person.  Refer interested constituents to your list of installers.  When installations take place, notify your constituents, local stakeholders and media. 
Repeat as needed.









Sample promotional text for email or postal letter

[Introductory paragraph about your organization, its history and its services.]

Look Into Solar Power for Your Building

Government incentives and tax breaks for solar energy are better than ever: they will cover about 70 - 90% of the typical solar installation cost!  Owners can finance or lease the rooftop solar energy system so it can be cash flow positive from day one, as they can receive many of the incentives in the first year.  System installers can customize the financing structure for a range of customer preferences so that owners don’t have to invest any cash, but can immediately start saving money on their electricity bills.  The cost of solar panels has recently been reduced, making this an even more attractive deal. There are currently four levels of government grants, tax breaks and incentives available:


A.  NYSERDA Rebate: $1.50/watt, up to 50,000 watts ($75,000 max).
B. 
Federal Tax Credit: 30% of the net retail cost of the system
C. 
Federal Bonus Accelerated Depreciation Benefit
       (taken over 5 years, 50% in year 1)

D.  NYC Property Tax Rebate: 10% of the cost of the system (taken over 4 years)


Is solar power right for you? [name of organization] will refer you to solar installers with extensive experience in commercial and industrial projects who will provide a free assessment of your facility.  Contact  [contact name, phone number and email].


 








Disclaimer: The following agreement is offered for educational purposes only and may not be suitable for your organization.  Neither Beyond Oil NYC nor LIC Partnership take any responsibility for any use of the following document.  To create a referral agreement with solar installers, please consult an attorney.   

 

REFERRAL COMMISSION AGREEMENT

 

            REFERRAL AGREEMENT dated as of January  _______, 20XX (hereina­fter "Agreement") between [Neighborhood Nonprofit Group]., having an address at 1234 Main Street, Anywhere, NY, NY (hereinafter "Group"), and Solar Energy Installer, Inc, having an address at 150 Canal Street, New York, NY 10014 (hereinafter "Installer").

 

            WHEREBY, Installer is in the business of assisting businesses develop solar energy systems.

 

            Group and Installer hereby agree as follows:

 

            1.  Referrals: Group will refer to Installer certain leads that may benefit from its services. Installer will notify Group if Installer is not interest­ed in pursuing any particular client relation­ship.  If acceptable, Installer will prepare a sales proposal and appropriate authoriza­tion letters to have signed by client.

 

            2.  Referral Commission, Etc.: (a) A referral commission (the "Referral Commission") of three percent (3%) relative to the Installer fee, less a proportionate share of any Sales and Use or equivalent taxes, rebates, and char­ge-backs, will be paid to Group by Installer, with respect to client agreements in effect during the term of this agreement.

 

            Such commis­sion shall be payable by Installer on the twentieth (20th) business day of the month immediately following the month in which Installer has received such invoiced amount. Installer will send to Group copies of all invoices sent to any referral client.  The provisions of this Section 2 shall survive the termination of the Agreement to the extent noted in paragraph 3 (b), below.

           

            3.  Term and Termination of Agreement:  (a) This Agreement shall commence on the date hereof and shall be on an "at will" basis, terminable by either party, upon sixty (60) days prior written notice to the other party hereto.

 

            (b) In the event this Agreement is terminated, Installer and Group shall be released from any further obligations, except for the obligations accrued to the date of termination.  "Obligations accrued" is defined to include any monies or credits earned, pursuant to the agreement between client and Installer.  Notwithstanding the above, termination shall refer only to the introduction of new clients.  Any client developed by Group which Installer begins or continues to service and from which fees are actually received subsequent to the termination of this Agreement shall be commissionable to Group.  In cases where a client is introduced to Installer by Group before termination of this Agreement, but Installer is engaged by such client after termination of this Agreement, Installer shall continue to pay a commission to Group for such client even though the engagement was after termination of this Agreement.

 

            4.  Miscellaneous:  (a) All notices pursuant to this agreement shall be in writing and sufficient if delivered personally or sent by certified or express mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid or by regular overnight courier.  Any party may by written notice change the address to which notices to such party are to be delivered or mailed.

 

            (b) The services to be performed by Group hereunder are as an indepen­dent contractor and neither Group nor Installer shall have any authority to bind the other in any respec­t. Group is free from Installer's direction and control.  Group shall be wholly responsible for all of its own costs and expenses and overhead, shall maintain its own books and records and pay its own taxes, without withholding by Installer

 

            (c) This agreement and the obligations of Group hereunder may not be assigned by Group.

 

            (d) This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to the principles of conflicts of laws thereof and any action or proceeding shall be brought in the appropriate venue in the State of New York.

 

            (e) In the event that any provision contained in this agreement shall be determined to be invalid, illegal or unenforceable in any respect for any reason, the validity, legality and enforceability of any such provision in every other respect and the remaining provisions of this Agreement shall not, at the election of the party for whose benefit the provision exists, be in any way impaired.

 

            (f) Any waiver of any term or condition, or any amendment or supplementation of this agreement shall be effective only if in writing and signed by the party to be charged.

 

            (g) This agreement may be executed in multiple counterparts, each of which shall be deemed an original.

 

   (h) This agreement contains the entire agreement between Group and Installer with respect to the transactions con­templated by this agreement and super­sedes all prior arrangements or underst­an­dings with respect thereto.


             (i) Group shall have the right to inspect the books and records of Installer to ensure that Group is receiving its appropriate commission.  Installer shall provide a quarterly accounting to Group with respect to clients referred to it by Group. 

           

            IN WITNESS WHEREOF, Group and Installer have executed this agreement as of the date first above written.

 

Neighborhood Nonprofit Group

 

By:__________ ____________________________Date:_____________          

Jane Doe, President                

 

Solar Installer Inc.


By:______________________________Date:_______________            

                             
Richard Roe, President  







Professional Services Agreement for the Development of Solar Systems



PROFESSIONAL SERVICES AGREEMENT dated as of __________________ , 201X (hereina­fter "Agreement") between Solar Installer, having an address at ______________________    (hereinafter "SOLAR INSTALLER"), and NYC Community-Based Nonprofit, having an address at ______________, NY 11101 (hereinafter "NONPROFIT"). 

 

WHEREBY, SOLAR INSTALLER is in the business of assisting clients in the development of solar energy systems, SOLAR INSTALLER and NON-PROFIT hereby agree as follows:

 

1.  Development Rights:  NON-PROFIT grants SOLAR INSTALLER rights as the Solar Developer for solar

projects that arise during the term of this agreement.

 

            2.  Referrals:  NON-PROFIT will refer to SOLAR INSTALLER all leads that may benefit from its services. SOLAR INSTALLER will notify NON-PROFIT if SOLAR INSTALLER is not interest­ed in pursuing any particular client relation­ship.  If acceptable, SOLAR INSTALLER will prepare a sales proposal and appropriate authoriza­tion letters to have signed by client.

 

            3.  Fees:  In exchange for a referral to SOLAR INSTALLER that leads to a successful solar installation, and for a successful customer installation that then lead to additional referrals from the original NON-PROFIT referral:

           

            (a) NON-PROFIT will be eligible for the standard referral commission (the "Referral Commission") of twenty percent (20%) relative to the total project development fee with respect to client agreements in effect during the term of this agreement.  The total standard development fee is stated as fifteen percent (15%) of the project total cost, thus a standard three percent (3%) Referral Commission will apply upon receipt of the full fifteen percent (15%) by SOLAR INSTALLER.  The standard total development fee may be negotiated to a lower rate as business conditions dictate on a project by project basis.  The associated Referral Commission due to NON-PROFIT will lowered accordingly, but will always constitute twenty (20%) of the total development fee invoiced any payment received by SOLAR INSTALLER.  NON-PROFIT will be sent copies of customer invoices when submitted to the customer, and will be notified when customer payments are received within 10 business days after customer payment. NON-PROFIT will be entitled to payment on their percentage as installment payments are received by SOLAR INSTALLER.

           

            (b)  SOLAR INSTALLER will be eligible for the standard development fee (the "Development Commission") of eighty percent (80%) relative to the total project development fee with respect to client agreements in effect during the term of this agreement.  The total standard development fee is stated as fifteen percent (15%) of the project total cost, thus a standard twelve percent (12%) Development Commission will apply.  The standard total development fee may be negotiated to a lower rate as business conditions dictate on a project by project basis. The associated Development Commission due to SOLAR INSTALLER will lower accordingly, but will always constitute eighty percent (80%) of the total development fee invoiced and received by SOLAR INSTALLER.

 

            4.  Payment:  Such Referral Commission shall be payable by SOLAR INSTALLER on the twentieth (20th) business day of the month immediately following the month in which SOLAR INSTALLER has received any invoiced amount. SOLAR INSTALLER will send NON-PROFIT copies of all invoices sent to NON-PROFIT referral clients.  If SOLAR INSTALLER does NOT send NON-PROFIT copies of the customer invoices, and such non-compliance was intentional (and not the result of an administrative error), then NON-PROFIT shall be entitled to triple their standard referral commission. Provisions of this Section shall survive the termination of the Agreement to the extent noted in paragraph 5 (a), below.

           

            5.  Term and Termination of Agreement:  This Agreement shall commence on the date hereof and shall be on an "at will" basis, terminable by either party, upon ninety (90) days prior written notice to the other party hereto.  The agreement term is 365 days, with an automatic renewal unless termination is requested by either party upon a minimum of ninety (90) days written notice.

 

(a) In the event this Agreement is terminated, SOLAR INSTALLER and NON-PROFIT shall be released from any further obligations, except for the obligations accrued to the date of termination.  "Obligations accrued" is defined to include any monies or credits earned, pursuant to the agreement between client and SOLAR INSTALLER.  Notwithstanding the above, termination shall refer only to the introduction of new clients.  Any client developed by NON-PROFIT which SOLAR INSTALLER begins or continues to service and from which fees are actually received subsequent to the termination of this Agreement shall be commissionable to NON-PROFIT.  In cases where a client is introduced to SOLAR INSTALLER by NON-PROFIT before termination of this Agreement, but SOLAR INSTALLER is engaged by such client after termination of this Agreement, SOLAR INSTALLER shall continue to pay a commission to NON-PROFIT for such client even though the engagement was after termination of this Agreement.

 

            6.  Miscellaneous: 

           

            (a) All notices pursuant to this agreement shall be in writing and sufficient if delivered personally or sent by certified or express mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid or by regular overnight courier.  Any party may by written notice change the address to which notices to such party are to be delivered or mailed.

 

            (b) This agreement shall not preclude SOLAR INSTALLER from undertaking work for or seeking work among business that may be known to NON-PROFIT, without the assistance or involvement of NON-PROFIT. Where such work is obtained independently by SOLAR INSTALLER, or is the result of another referral to SOLAR INSTALLER, no referral fee shall be payable to NON-PROFIT.

           

            (c) The services to be performed by NON-PROFIT or by SOLAR INSTALLER hereunder are as an indepen­dent contractors and neither NON-PROFIT nor SOLAR INSTALLER shall have any authority to bind the other in any respec­t. NON-PROFIT and SOLAR INSTALLER are free from either company’s direction or control.  NON-PROFIT and SOLAR INSTALLER shall be wholly responsible for all of its own costs and expenses and overhead, shall maintain its own books and records and pay its own taxes, without withholding by SOLAR INSTALLER or NON-PROFIT.

 

            (d) This agreement and the obligations of NON-PROFIT hereunder may not be assigned by NON-PROFIT.

 

            (e) This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to the principles of conflicts of laws thereof and any action or proceeding shall be brought in the appropriate venue in the State of New York.

 

            (f) In the event that any provision contained in this agreement shall be determined to be invalid, illegal or unenforceable in any respect for any reason, the validity, legality and enforceability of any such provision in every other respect and the remaining provisions of this Agreement shall not, at the election of the party for whose benefit the provision exists, be in any way impaired.

 

            (g) Any waiver of any term or condition, or any amendment or supplementation of this agreement shall be effective only if in writing and signed by the party to be charged.

 

            (h) This agreement may be executed in multiple counterparts, each of which shall be deemed an original.

 

            (i) This agreement contains the entire agreement between NON-PROFIT and SOLAR INSTALLER with respect to the transactions con­templated by this agreement and super­sedes all prior arrangements or underst­an­dings with respect thereto.

 

(j)  NON-PROFIT shall have the right to inspect the books and records of SOLAR INSTALLER to ensure that NON-PROFIT is receiving its appropriate commission.  Upon request, SOLAR INSTALLER shall provide a quarterly accounting to NON-PROFIT with respect to clients referred to it by NON-PROFIT. 

           

 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, NON-PROFIT and SOLAR INSTALLER have executed this agreement as of the date first above written.

 

 

            Non-Profit

 

 

                        By:_______________________________________   Date:_______________           

                             XXXXX, President               

 

                       

            Solar Installer

 

 

                        By:_______________________________________   Date:_______________            

                              YYYYY, President