We started AIRE with the belief that private investors using tax incentives should help public and tax exempt organizations finance solar. After almost a decade of research, experimentation, project development, and critical reflection, we’ve concluded that the conditions required to utilize tax incentives to optimize public benefit are extremely limiting. Fortunately, the price of solar has dropped 62% over the past five years and almost 25% in the past year alone (according to GTM Research), making solar cheaper than electricity from the grid. This opens additional modes of solar finance in tax exempt settings. It also offers new possibilities for local economic development through value chain formations and similar strategies.

AIRE works with organizations on single or phased renewable energy projects. We also work with intermediary organizations who wish to integrate community-based renewable energy in their economic development and community wealth-building work in urban and rural settings. AIRE can also provide impact investor funds, foundations, charitable donors and other financial entities with a variety of related research and analysis. We are also interested in scholarly research collaborations in our field.  Our work includes:

  • Critical Research, Analysis & Decision Support
  • Pre-Development Project Consulting
  • Project Development
  • Project Finance
    • third-party tax equity
    • debt
    • public finance options
    • crowdfunding

AIRE works with nonprofits in a variety of ways with regard to fees. The first thing we want to do is clearly understand your organization’s needs and how we can help. We then want to work together to determine how we can maximize our value to you.



Our Team


Steve Owen, Ph.D. – Co-founder and Executive Director

Steve co-founded AIRE in the spring of 2007 as an outgrowth of his work organizing the Appalachian Coalfields Delegation to the United Nations. In 2006 and 2007, he led the delegation to New York City for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) sessions on sustainable energy. Their participation helped connect the grassroots effort to end mountaintop removal coal mining with global civil society groups. Steve has an undergraduate degree in economics, a Masters in education, and a doctorate in public policy and sustainability studies. Steve has served on the faculty of the ASU Sustainable Development program. Prior to becoming involved in sustainable development, he worked for Outward Bound (North Carolina and Colorado), as a private mountaineering guide, a Nordic ski instructor, small business owner, and in corporate training and development in the U.S. and Venezuela.

steve [at] aire-nc.org



Jeff DealJeff Deal – Co-founder and Project Director

Jeff holds a bachelor’s in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and has completed graduate courses in computer science and appropriate technology. During his 20 year Information Technology career in non-profits, academia and at one Fortune 50 company, Jeff has worked as a computer programmer (C/C++, JAVA, PHP, UNIX shell scripting), Relational Database administrator (Sybase, Oracle, MySQL, and DB2), and UNIX Systems Engineer (AIX, Solaris, and Linux). His renewable energy interests include community renewable energy development, distributed solar electric & thermal design, renewable energy metering/producer-consumer feedback systems, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation – most especially solar fueled electric vehicles. Jeff currently serves as an Information Technology Specialist for Appalachian Voices, where he worked on the iLoveMountains.org development team for six years.
jeff [at] aire-nc.org


Bucky BlackBucky Black- Director of RIDG

Bucky Black is the president of Resource Wood Inc., a company dedicated to zero waste, where unwanted logs are converted into premium wood products, works of art and architecture. Bucky’s “zero waste” mentality grew from his early career as a “chef to the stars”, where he worked diligently to create the best possible culinary experience for Michael Jackson, Liz Taylor, Sammy Davis, Jr., Quincy Jones, David Cooperfield, and other luminaries – without any “garbage”.

With commercial and residential installations throughout the southeastern United States, Resource Wood, Inc. has begun to turn its attention to the creation of value from low quality wood waste. As the community outreach partner to Appalachian State University, Black has helped bring top awards to research biomass waste utilization for combined heat and power. Black’s latest project, situated at AIRE, is the Renewable Resource Innovative Design Group Enterprise (RIDG), devoted to ending pollution by building local economies and products via resources traditionally viewed as “waste”.

bucky [at] aire-nc.org

Fiscal Sponsor

Inquiring Systems, Inc. of Santa Rosa, California is AIRE’s fiscal sponsor, strategic planning and business management provider.

Although AIRE secured a 501(c)3 designation a decade ago, we elected to rejoin ISI as a sponsored project in 2016 so that we could devote our energy more exclusively to our mission while we entrust ISI with important governance, accountability, and mission-related connectivity.

S. Loren Cole, Ph.D. founded Inquiring Systems in 1979. He is the founder, leader and contributor to many of the most important social issues of our time, including resource use and energy conservation, environment, civil rights and social justice, education, organic farming, hunger, refugee issues, low-income employment and training, equitable trade, international development, and other pertinent issues and conditions that affect people, communities and ecosystems. Loren is one of the founding members of Earth Day and was co-coordinator of the first Earth Day activities on the UC-Berkeley campus in 1970.

Loren passed away on August 19, 2017. His vision for living was more profound than we ever realized during our time with Loren. However, we better understand the complex idea that he had for living as part of an “inquiring system.” It is rooted in scholarship, philosophy, cosmology and wholeness. These connections with everything (i.e. the “systems”) are the questions for inquiry. It is a way of seeing the world that could provide hope for a planet and all its life now so imperiled. We will say more about Loren’s legacy and what it means for all who are working toward ethical social change later.

Pam Campbell, a long-time colleague of Loren’s, is now the CEO of Inquiring Systems.