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Posts Tagged ‘Solar Mosaic’

From the roof of my condo complex in a sunny part of San Francisco, I can see solar panels on at least a few houses on each surrounding block.

Yet solar for our condo has eluded us. When it comes to solar, condos — with multiple owners and HOA regulations — are a tough nut to crack. I’m determined to get us solar power someday, but the jury is out on when that day will come.

While I’m interested in solar for environmental reasons, most people go solar simply to save money — which is how I’ll have to sell it at my condo. After all, most of us can’t afford solar power for altruistic reasons alone. It has to make financial sense.

Yet while more people are becoming aware of the financial benefits of solar, most still can’t participate in those benefits. That’s because 75% of us don’t own our roof or have a roof suitable for solar. My condo is just one example of the many barriers to going solar for the 75%.

That’s where Mosaic comes in. It’s part of a community power movement that’s providing more opportunities for the 75% to go solar. Community power aims to decentralize clean electricity generation and make it accessible to all. As solar and other renewables become more available and affordable, the hope is that ordinary consumers of that power will benefit, rather than big companies outside their communities.

But many community power options rely on policy changes that are slow to come. A growing number of people are tired of waiting and are taking matters into their own hands to make solar projects happen. Crowdfunding has emerged as a simple and powerful way to allow the 75% to take action by investing directly in solar. With crowdfunding, even people who can’t get solar on their own roof can participate by pooling their dollars to support solar.

Till now, most crowdfunding models have been about making donations to fund solar projects. That’s great if you’re looking for a worthy charity. And it’s true that solar benefits everyone, even if it’s not on your own roof. But what if you want to reap the benefits of solar in a more direct way? Mosaic provides that opportunity with a new model that lets people invest in solar projects and get a solid return.

Is solar is worth investing in? Take a cue from Warren Buffett, whose recent purchase of two solar plants sent stocks soaring. Of course, most of us can’t afford a whole solar plant. The good news is that now, you don’t need to be a millionaire to invest in solar. One of Mosaic’s first projects is providing investors a hefty 6.4% return, and some of them ponied up as little as $25.

That’s what’s so exciting about Mosaic. With a low barrier to entry, Mosaic is bringing solar and its benefits within the reach of regular people like you and me. For me, this means I don’t have to wait to get solar on my condo. I can invest now in Mosaic and be part of bringing solar to communities, and even get a return on my investment. Finally, I’ll have a real stake in solar. Finally, I’ll get some direct benefits, without needing to put panels on my roof. Finally, I’ll be able to do well while doing good.

Now, that’s what I call solar for the 75%.

This post was originally published at Mosaic.

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Many claims are being made these days that we’re at the tipping point for solar. The McKinsey report Solar Power: Darkest Before Dawn attributes this largely to lower prices: not only have solar costs plummeted in the last two years, but the cost of commercial-scale systems is already competitive — and for residential customers, leases have made solar much more affordable.

So, are we really at the tipping point, and when will we see the chance for every American to “go solar”?

Getting to the solar tipping point

At a recent EcoTuesday gathering in San Francisco, Heather Kernahan of Enphase Energy asked this question. While most in the industry agree that highly publicized setbacks like the failure of Solyndra are growing pains, rather than indications of solar’s demise, not all agree on where we are in relation to the tipping point.

States like California — which some call “the Germany of the U.S.” — have made great strides in installing solar. But what about places like Utah? Most states still have far to go. And although solar is becoming more affordable, many people still don’t realize it’s a viable option for them. In addition, going solar can seem too complex. That can put off a lot of people who might otherwise be interested.

Simplifying the message

Now that price has become less of a barrier for many homeowners, we need to remove other obstacles — notably, people’s perceptions of solar. Some possible solutions:

  • Solar as an appliance: What if you could purchase solar panels at Best Buy? You can already buy a small panel there to charge your electronic devices.
  • Solar as a service: With solar leases, homeowners avoid the hassles and complexity of installing the systems and can leave any maintenance to someone else.
  • Solar as a consumer technology: With features on systems like remote monitoring, solar is becoming more cool. Even people not normally interested in technology can get excited about an iPhone or iPad — what if solar were viewed the same way?

To reach more people, we need to simplify the message. People need to see solar as a simple solution with immediate benefits.

For homeowners with sunny roofs, that may not be hard to convey.

Solar for the rest of us

That brings us to the 75% or so of us who can’t easily go solar now: renters, condo dwellers in multi-unit buildings, or those with shaded roofs, to name just a few. In some states, people can subscribe to power from a solar garden — an installation in a location other than their own roof. But for now, that’s not available to a lot of us.

Right now, we can participate by donating to a number of organizations that provide solar to low-income families, community centers, and nonprofits. In some areas there’s even volunteer work available installing solar panels, which I can attest is a lot of fun and highly rewarding.

Still, those of us participating in that way are likely already solar converts. It’s easy to reach that group, but to spread solar we need to go beyond the choir.

Estimates vary on the numbers of Americans who are “deep green” consumers, whose interest in environmental benefits will override other concerns — but whether that number is 19% or higher, green marketers tend to agree that the best way to reach people is to focus on the issues most relevant to them. And when it comes to participating in solar, for a lot of people that means making it financially attractive.

That’s where organizations like Solar Mosaic come in. When people realize that anyone can crowdfud clean energy and benefit, the floodgates are likely to open.

Finally, we’ll have solar for the rest of us.

This post was originally published at Mosaic on 10/25/12.

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Can you spot all the roofs with solar in this photo? I hope ours will join them soon!

Have you ever thought about going solar? Maybe you rent, live in a condo, can’t afford solar, have a shaded roof, or plan to move soon.

Some states are now making it possible to go solar even in these situations. In those states, people can subscribe to solar power from a common array called a solar garden, supplying their homes through the existing power grid. Next year, a bill will be before the legislature in California to make this possible here. Please urge your representative to vote for SB 843, which would enable solar gardens to happen in California.

And for now, take advantage of this opportunity to learn about solar gardens:

When: Sunday, November 20, 2011, 4:30 pm
Where: Farley’s Cafe, 1315 – 18th Street, in  Potrero Hill, San Francisco
What: Community Solar Day is a worldwide Meetup sponsored by, among others, Solar Mosaic, Vote Solar, Community Power Network, the Solar Panel Hosting Company, and the Solar Gardens Institute to kick-start solar projects in people’s communities.

If you can, bring a photo of yourself with friends and family at a site where you’d like to see solar power.

Together, we can help get solar to everyone in our communities!

Please RSVP at my Community Solar Day Meetup site for San Francisco.

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