How crowdfunding solar power is democratizing the way we finance clean energy

Crowdfunding campaigns for solar power are gaining traction. Pioneering startups like Mosaic are changing how we finance renewable energy.

Mosaic raised enough money through crowdfunding to put a solar roof on Pinnacle Charter School in Denver, Colorado.  Image: Mosaic

Mosaic raised enough money through crowdfunding to put a solar roof on Pinnacle Charter School in Denver, Colorado.
Image: Mosaic

Lyndsey Gilpin | March 13, 2014 | TechRepublic – Ten years ago, Billy Parish visited the shrinking Gaumukh Glacier, a source for the Ganges River that provides 450 million people in Asia with water. Someone told him during the tour that a few years before, he would have been standing on a significantly larger glacier, but by 2030, the entire formation would be gone.

After the trip, Parish was about to start his junior year at Yale. Instead, he dropped out and founded the Energy Action Coalition. By the age of 21, he was running the largest youth organization working on clean energy solutions in the world. Rolling Stone named him a “Climate Hero.”

A few years ago, Parish and his now-co-founder Dan Rosen envisioned a “Kickstarter for solar” when they realized it is estimated to cost trillions of dollars to power the infrastructure of the world with 100 percent renewable energy.

“We soon recognized that the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy represented perhaps the largest wealth creation opportunity of the century,” Parish said. “There’s enormous demand for investments with these characteristics but no real platform to make investing in them easy.”

The two men decided to change that with a startup called Mosaic, a web platform that allows investors to fund various solar power projects.

“For me, Mosaic represents one of the biggest business opportunities and one of the biggest climate solutions on the planet,” Parish said. “To be able to work at the center of the venn diagram of those two circles is pretty incredible.”

Crowdfunding: Changing the solar power equation
Less than 24 hours after Oakland-based Mosaic allowed crowdfunding campaigns in January 2013 in which investors could pitch as little as $25, they raised enough money to fund four clean energy projects in California for affordable housing projects. More than 400 investors raised $313,000. The investors, on average, paid about $670 each.

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