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Solar Mosaic: Local Startup Uses Crowdfunding for Solar Projects

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Solar Mosaic uses crowdfunding to pay for community solar projects in Oakland.

The Oakland-based company Solar Mosaic promises a “disruptive” and potentially lucrative incentive to crowdfund solar energy projects this summer.

Solar Mosaic is an online startup that uses a model, similar to Kickstarter, to help fund community solar energy projects. The company essentially serves as the mediator between investors who wish to support renewable energy initiatives and community members and organizations who want to “get off the grid.” 

Through the company’s website, investors can buy solar “tiles” at $100. After the funding goal is reached, the “solar plant is built and begins producing energy,” according to the site. Thereafter, investors will begin seeing their funds credited to their account as the project sells its excess energy back to the grid, the website says. 

Three of the Solar Mosaic's pilot projects are based in Oakland, one of which is the Asian Resource Center. Thanks to 134 investors, the startup was able to draw in $98,000 to cover the roof of the ARC with solar panels. 

So far, the company has helped realize five “rooftop solar plants” with the support of 400 investors. 

Garrett Fitzgerald is the sustainability coordinator for the city of Oakland, and says Solar Mosaic is a great alternative for people who are passionate about renewable energy, but do not have the financial or logistical capacity to install their own solar system. He said they are a model for combining social good with economic benefit.

“These kinds of companies are the future of the green economy in Oakland,” Fitzgerald said.

Solar Mosaic has plans to take the economic benefits a step further in the following months. The company’s co-founder and president, Billy Parish, said that this summer investors will not only have the satisfaction of investing in renewable energy, they also will receive interest “ranging from 5-12 percent.” The company’s website invites individuals to sign up in order to be informed as soon as the new option goes live.

Parish believes that, through crowdfunding, his company will democratize access to solar. He said the renewable energy economy has lacked investment incentive, but said this new approach could revolutionize energy alternatives such as solar. Forbes Magazine agrees, calling Solar Mosaic the “Facebook of the energy industry.”

In the past, Parish has said, “There wasn’t a way for most people to participate in, and benefit from the transition to clean energy and we basically saw an opportunity for social change that intersected a big business opportunity.” 

The co-founder has a history of mobilizing for renewable energy alternatives and is perhaps best known for dropping out of Yale University to help found the Energy Action Coalition, a global youth coalition addressing climate change. 

Parish is an Oakland resident and said Solar Mosaic chose the city as its base because they believe “Oakland has an opportunity to be at the heart of ‘clean web’ where information technology and clean technology meet.” He also pointed out that Oakland is home to a host of solar companies and said they are “excited to be among kindred companies.” 

Meanwhile, crowdfunding revenue reached a record $1.2 billion in 2011 and is expected to double this year. It is these trends that allow startups like Solar Mosaic to initiate community-focused, renewable energy projects in Oakland. 

“We’ve got a lot of connections in Oakland and want to grow deep roots here,” Parish said. 

Source: Oakland Local [http://m.oaklandlocal.com/article/522-local-startup-uses-crowdfunding-solar-energy-projects]

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