Green Start-Ups Turn to Crowdfunding

Select solar stocks have been on a tear lately. SunPower, First Solar and Elon Musk’s SolarCity have had increases of between 60 percent and over 100 percent year-to-date.

So for those of you who think you’ve missed the solar run-up or are searching for a new entry point into the solar space—consider solar crowdfunding.

Sites such as Kickstarter have helped amateur artists, small businesses and established filmmakers raise millions for independent projects. Now green-energy start-ups, including solar, have tapped the funding platform to raise capital.

A casual search of the words “solar” and “green” on the large crowdfunding site Kickstarter yields a wide range of projects seeking funding (not loans) from friends, family and strangers. Projects include a self-watering planter for growing herbs and greens, and solar chargers for gadgets such as smartphones and tablets. Fundly, a website devoted to crowd funding for charities, also features some solar projects.

Mosaic: Crowdfunding Clean Energy

Another green start-up trying to woo new investors: Oakland, Calif-based Mosaic. Taking a cue from the crowdfunding model, Mosaic essentially is an online matchmaking service that connects environmentally conscious investors with solar projects for schools, community centers and housing complexes.

Launched in 2011, Mosaic lets people invest directly in solar projects through loans as small as $25. Investors collect their loan repayments and interest as projects earn revenue.

To be clear, regulators are drafting guidelines on so-called equity crowdfunding, which lets funders own a piece of new businesses. But Mosaic is technically crowdfunding debt on solar projects, not offering equity stakes in businesses as crowdfunding is defined by the federal JOBS Act.

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