Solar firms seek to power up own CU

July 21, 2015

BOULDER, Colo. (7/21/15)--Five companies that specialize in solar installation have taken a shine to the credit union cooperative approach to financial services. The five firms have joined forces to begin the process of forming Clean Energy FCU.

“If solar is the key to democratizing our electricity, then credit unions are the key to democratizing financing,” said Duane Peterson, one of the group’s co-founders and co-CEO of SunCommon in Vermont told Solar Today (July 13). “We are committed to the idea of building a credit union that will outlast all of us and serve as an ongoing source of financing to help everyday people acquire solar and other clean energy technologies.

The project saw first light when Blake Jones, cofounder of Namaste? Solar in Boulder, Colo., could not find solar financing options that aligned with his company’s cooperative values, Jones told Solar Today, published by the American Solar Energy Society(ASES).

Namaste Solar is part of the Amicus Solar Cooperative. Jones asked the other members of the cooperative if they were interested in exploring the idea of forming a credit union. Sun Valley Solar Solutions, Chandler, Ariz.;SunCommon, Waterbury Center, Vt.,Technicians for Sustainability, Tucson, Ariz.;and Third Sun Solar, Athens, Ohio,joined the effort, and a steering committee was launched.

The cooperative members have also partnered with ASES.

The credit union’s founders hope to channel their members’ deposit dollars into more attractive solar financing solutions. Among the group’s specific goals, as outlined by ASES:

  • Provide affordable loan terms that are better than other loans on the market today for solar electric systems and electric vehicles;
  • Offer federally insured investment opportunities in clean energy; and
  • Provide services as a nonprofit, cooperative financial institution that serves its members and will remain dedicated to its mission over the long term, as opposed to a bank, which serves its stockholders.

The new credit union would operate online only when it initially opens, with phone and online services to assist members with their questions and transactions. Initially, it will offer savings accounts, certificates of deposits, a variety of loan options and online banking services.