Until now, the activities of SolarCity’s charitable arm, the GivePower Foundation, were largely funded by SolarCity and grants from the Elon Musk Foundation. Having just officially received its 501(c)3 status, the foundation can now accept donations from the public. And the Bank of America Foundation anted up in a big way here.
The Bank of America Foundation doesn’t typically give to energy access projects, much less clean energy projects. Instead, it focuses on supporting workforce training and skills development, youth employment, education, and basic needs projects. However, all of BofA's areas of grantmaking interest are connected to energy access. This particular gift will not only support lighting schools located in remote areas of developing countries, but keeping them lit for other activities such as community meetings and adult ed classes, which typically take place at night.
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The Bank of America Foundation’s $500,000 donation to the GivePower Foundation will go toward the expansion of its solar energy services to schools located in remote villages in Mali, Nicaragua, Kenya, Haiti, Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Nepal, and Ghana. The grant will also pay for the costs of solar energy training, research, and development in communities that lack access to energy.
SolarCity was established in the mid-2000s by brothers Peter and Lydon Rive with the help of their well-known cousin Elon Musk. Since then, the Elon Musk Foundation and SolarCity have been teaming up for years to provide clean, renewable energy, mainly to disaster areas in the United States.
This work began in 2010 when SolarCity donated a solar panel and battery backup installation to a hurricane response center in Alabama shortly after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That effort was followed by a similar solar energy project in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan after the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit in 2011, and again in response to Hurricane Sandy.
SolarCity would officially go public in 2012 and establish its charitable arm, the GivePower Foundation, in 2013. The foundation soon began providing solar energy power systems and batteries to schools in developing countries such as Haiti, Mali, Malawi and Nepal. In 2014, GivePower provided clean energy to some 400 schools, while aiding over 500 schools in Africa and Central America to gain access to energy.
With its new nonprofit status and big gift from the Bank of America Foundation, GivePower is hoping to double its solar power reach to at least 1,000 schools in remote areas in developing countries. The foundation will also continue to make a “donation of light to one school in need” for every megawatt of solar power that SolarCity installs and provide training programs to local residents on how to install and maintain SolarCity's energy systems.