Building Something Bigger: Crowdfunding Solar Power

image credit martin jakobsen via flickr

image credit martin jakobsen via flickr

Crowdfunding campaigns cover a variety of causes: from the quickey multitool, a pocket device that’ll tackle everyday tasks, to saving a classic drive-in theater. There’s a crowdfunding project for everything, and at least one for everyone to support. What these campaigns have in common, is that they envision an innovative product, cause, or service and then find the backers that would love and be proud to support. We are all a part of the Crowd, that’s what makes crowdfunding so powerful. Financing is no longer in the hands of wealthy backers. With backing from a large crowd, even if the individual investments are modest, a project can acquire the startup funding it wouldn’t be able to achieve through other streams. When enough people tune in, and pitch in what funds  they can, the goal can be something huge- like Solar Power.

Blue & Green Tomorrow cites clean energy installations making up 44% of all new electricity generation installations over the course of 2013, compared with investments in renewable energy installations dropping by 14% in the same period. The public is interested, and ready to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, but the funding is falling behind. Crowdfunding has the ability to directly connect those interested in furthering the scope of this renewable resource with those making it a reality. Interested investors can fund individual projects in solar power like solar generators by inergy or the Solartab. To bring solar power to an entire city, the crowd must pull together in a large scaled operation of information and funding.

The city of Portland, Oregon’s Burueau of Planning and Sustainability has introduced one such campaign with ‘Solar Forward.’ Their goal is, “to offer community members a way to engage in the development of new, clean, local renewable energy systems on public buildings like community centers, schools and libraries.” Their site explains that most private dwellings do not make ideal locations for solar panels to be installed. Those wanting to support solar power in Portland can contribute to Solar Forward, so that the city can establish it’s solar network in the most effective configuration. In the long run, Solar Forward hopes to pay back their funders for the portion of the energy savings that their donation produced.

A US startup called Mosaic pairs interested investors with vouched for projects. Founded by Dan Rosen and Billy Parish, Mosaic is a “Kickstarter for solar.” More than $7 million have been raised through the web platform so far. Last month Mosaic opened their platform beyond funding commercial projects, to funding private home projects. With the ‘Mosaic Home Solar Loan‘ program launched in it’s home city of Oakland, California, Mosaic has joined RGS Engery in installing solar to private residences with crowdfunded money. The program treats the installation costs as a loan, for homeowners to pay back with small installments over 20 years.

The goal of crowdfunding isn’t just to raise funds, but to raise a cause. A good campaign compels the crowd to help by speaking up, spreading the word, AND participating in startup financing. Right now, crowdfunding is allowing for the advancement of solar power, globally. The success these campaigns have already seen should be a testament to the effect of support from the Crowd.

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