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Decorah Bank: Paving the way in solar energy financing


7 September 2022

Greenpenny is a virtual and carbon-neutral bank with a mission to finance a sustainable tomorrow. Its parent company is GABV member and northeast Iowa’s,  Decorah Bank & Trust Co., a family and employee-owned bank with a decades-long commitment to positive environmental practices.

It all began in 2000, when the leaders of Decorah Bank became more concerned with providing a healthier environment for its customers and employees. Decorah Bank made energy improvements and eventually added solar PV production to all of its facilities. 

As Decorah Bank evolved into an energy-responsible leader in the community, the Bank began measuring its carbon footprint in 2008. It also became a known source of financing for solar installations in northeast Iowa. Today, Decorah maintains one of the highest amounts of solar production per capita in the United States. In 2019, as a result of further efficiency work and investment in solar production, Decorah Bank achieved carbon neutrality. 

Where You Bank Matters 

Greenpenny was launched in mid-2020 to enable big change by inspiring the use of clean energy. Money deposited in greenpenny is secure, earns interest, and is only used to finance renewable energy projects – starting with solar. Greenpenny is designed to be a form of crowdfunding for the advancement of clean and renewable energy.  

Customers access easy-to-use, hi-tech online and mobile banking platforms, yet greenpenny bankers are just a phone call or chat away for extra care. And no ATM withdrawal fees worldwide – ever! Deposit services are FDIC insured and available for people across the nation. 

Why Solar?

Installing solar systems is a great way to reduce energy consumption from the grid, save money, and protect our planet for future generations. Solar electric systems are efficient, low maintenance, and last a long time. The immediate reduction in monthly electricity spending can be enough to cover all, or most, of the solar loan payment. With greenpenny residential solar financing, for example, a new system installation can be financed with no money down and the monthly utility bill can be swapped for a solar payment until loan payoff when, typically, the homeowner will enjoy many years of significantly reduced electricity costs.  

Solar Project Financing Large and Small

Having begun nearly 20 years ago, Decorah Bank has experience with solar project financing and offers reasonable terms to help buyers make smart investments in their property. In the last five years, the bank has financed nearly 500 solar projects for non-profits like universities, schools, and municipalities – as well as commercial enterprises, farmers, and families. Residential and commercial solar financing is available in IA, IL, MN, MO and WI. 

Residential Solar Program  

The process from application to funding can be completed very quickly – in as few as 5 business days. Or, if an applicant needs additional time, pre-approvals are good for 120 days, following the date of application. Once an application is pre-approved, a Universal Banker – supported by a team of Banking Assistants – is assigned and contacts the customer to guide the process from loan structure and document submission, to closing and funding.  

Residential Solar Program Process

Borrowers can select one or both of two different financing options. The Solar Tax Credit option provides an up to 15-month single-payment loan (no monthly payments, pay-off at end of term), and covers eligible project cost up to the 30% solar federal income tax credit. The Residential Solar Term Loan option provides up to 20-year fixed rate term financing for up to the remaining 70% of the solar project cost.  An example loan structure and payment calculator can be found at

Demand for residential solar loans has significantly increased in 2022 which, we believe, can be attributed to greater awareness of greenpenny and rising home utility costs. The average loan size has grown over $4K from last year reflecting increased costs on solar system components due to supply chain issues and other inflationary pressures (e.g. labour costs). These loans are secured by the solar system equipment through UCC-1 filings; for projects $100K and above a UCC-2 filing is performed connecting the loan to the property. There have been no loan losses, or even 30-day late payments, in this program to date.    

Solar Financing for Businesses, Non-Profits and Farms 

Each commercial and industrial (C&I) scale solar installation is unique. The bank offers financing flexibility to help organizations achieve their economic and environmental goals, reduce energy consumption from the grid, and save money by installing solar systems that are efficient, low maintenance and last a long time.  

Greenpenny offers various financing structures to allow organizations to benefit from depreciation and any federal, state or local tax incentives that can be claimed, (we always encourage borrowers to consult their tax advisor).  Just as with residential financing, the immediate reduction in monthly electricity spending is usually enough to cover the solar loan payment. For larger projects, typically those between $250K and $10MM, a custom cash flow analysis can be performed that includes the expected production of the solar facility. Flexible community bank underwriting considers project specific factors such as local market or utility paid incentives, government loan guarantees and forecasted energy cost increases mimicked in irregular and escalating loan payments.   

Greenpenny and Decorah Bank & Trust Co. have financed renewable energy projects in each of the three C&I solar project stages including development, construction and operation. The bank has experience with various structures and collateral arrangements including direct commercial and agricultural financing typically secured by real estate, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for investors and non-profits secured by energy production, Community Solar Gardens (CSGs) secured by subscription agreements, among others.    

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Doing Their Part  

Greenpenny aspires to be a catalyst for positive change by inspiring governments, businesses and individuals to support the greater adoption of clean energy. In addition to solar financing, the bank offers loans for geothermal and battery storage systems, and Green CHOICE Mortgages® for energy-efficient home improvements. As part of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, member of 1% for the Planet®, and support for the first-in-the-nation Winneshiek Energy District – greenpenny knows collectively we can be a more powerful source for solving the world’s climate problem. We’re focused on doing our part by working together to develop real financial solutions that make economic sense and protect Mother Earth.           

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