California Solar Energy Gets Crowdsourced

solar energy
California residents who are seeking to use solar energy on their homes and other properties now are finding that their panels may be boosted by venture capital crowdsourced from the community. Mosaic, a Oakland, Calif. company, is allowing people to put their money where the sun shines and invest in solar projects. The company touts the ready availability of the sun’s energy, the predictable nature of the collection method, and a good, solid return.

When a project is funded and panels are installed, Mosaic has a claim on the energy produced. It then sells that power to other consumers and investors receive a benefit from that revenue. Mosaic acts as an intermediary, connecting investor with a vetted solar project. The company receives a 1 percent fee for providing a platform from which an investor can monitor her account and manage the returns. Investors are said to receive 4.5 percent interest on their investment. While not the skyrocketed returns of a bubble economy, a stable return on investment is often recommended by many financial advisors. There are no guarantees, however.

Homeowners get the benefit of a drastically reduced cost of panel installation, especially when they use their 30 percent federal tax credit for installing clean energy resources. Mosaic is also making a move to work with institutions, funding a solar array on a University of Florida student housing building.

Mosaic’s website lists a number of huge projects, including one at Fort Dix, NJ which promises an output of over 12,000 kW and which funded for nearly $400,000. So far, they are boasting 100 percent repayments on the projects which makes their business model nearly as reliable as the sun rising in the morning.

In the meantime, California solar energy users recently saw their ″net metering″ extended by regulators. Standard energy companies were in an uproar, claiming that homes with solar panels weren’t paying their fair share to use the electrical grid. Californians will be able to grandfather their net metering for up to 20 years, a plan which will include all solar array installations done before July 1, 2017.

This development, combined with the ability to purchase solar energy panels with the help of a crowdsourced group of investors, means that at least Californians will be able to enjoy a greener lifestyle well into the future. Previously, a more feasible way to install solar on a home was to procure a lease for the equipment. Leases account for two-thirds of all solar panel installations in California. With the success of Mosaic, it would not be surprising if more such funds didn’t spring up to entice residents and large developers into purchasing solar systems.

Since California has a peculiar way of being a bellweather for the rest of the United States, it will be interesting to see if similar crowdsourcing platforms don’t spring up nationwide to fund solar energy. Further, the remaining 49 states may take a look at how California is protecting its solar users from energy companies loath to see their monopoly on energy evaporated by the sun’s brilliant light.

By Hobie Anthony

The Atlantic
The Daily Beast
SF Gate

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