San Diegans investing for a good cause

Program pays investors back 8 percent

VISTA, Calif. - A unique idea in the North County has San Diegans investing for a good cause.

Harvesting the power of the sun is generating a new buzz. Oceanside-based TERI, Inc. runs 12 homes in the North County, each serving people with developmental disabilities and special needs.

The homes were paid for with grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"And the program inside is partially funded through the Medi-Cal program," said Joe Michalowski, who is with TERI, Inc.

They have a home in Vista that is mostly self-sustained with vegetation that is 80 percent edible, but utility costs were adding up so they had 47 solar panels installed on the roof. The panels come with a 25-year guarantee. They got them without paying a cent out of pocket or soliciting donations. 

"This house alone should save over $78,000 over the course of the lifetime of those panels," said Michalowski.

The total project came with a price tag of $44,500. In all, 27 people stepped up, investing $25 to $10,000.

"The investors are paid back over a 10-year period, but every year they receive an annual principal and interest payment based on the power that's generated," said Lee Barken, who is with San Diego-based CollectiveSun, LLC.

It is called impact investing, and it is a way for people to support a cause or mission they care about while getting a return on their money. 

10News wanted to know if investors were guaranteed to get their money back.

"With all investments, there are certainly risks involved," said Barken.

Barken told 10News this investment comes with an 8 percent return that will be paid out over 10 years.

"We basically rely on the power of the sun to generate electricity and that generates savings for TERI, and the revenue from the solar power that's generated helps pay back the investor," said Barken.

Michalowski hopes this will be a model others will follow.

"We do hope this to be a model and have this spread throughout the country," he said.

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