Pulling from the popularity of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Solar Mosaic and 20 other companies and nonprofits are launching the Occupy Rooftops campaign, to encourage communities to come together to support micro-financed solar projects that benefit their communities.
Solar Mosaic has developed some tools to help communities throughout the world to come together to find financing for solar projects, and is working with a solar company to offer five—to start—$1,000 seed grants to give some projects a boost.
The Occupy Rooftops campaign launched on Nov. 20, Community Solar Day. Solar Mosaic, along with its partner organizations, including Bill McKibben’s 350.org are encouraging groups around the world to take pictures of buildings they want to power with solar electricity.
Through a partnership with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Solar Mosaic developed its first campaign, Solar Mosaic Oakland, earlier this year. Under that campaign the company is offering 5,000, $100 solar tiles to support solar projects in the community.
“We completed our first project last month,” said Solar Mosaic spokesperson Lisa Curtis.
The company’s tiles supported the 28.8-kilowatt PV array at the Asian Resource Center. It has another 8.6-kilowatt project underway at People’s Grocery, a community store.
When it launched the campaign in Oakland, Solar Mosaic said it planned to install 140 kilowatts in the community, but did not have specific installations named.
“People are much more willing to do it on a project-by-project basis,” Curtis said.
At this point the company is finalizing four other projects.
“We’re definitely planning to have close to 140 kilowatts done by the end of the year,” she said. “We’re looking at about four different sites right now.”
The unique crowd-financing model harnessed the power of an online peer-to-peer lending system that allows people to buy into solar projects for their communities, akin to micro-financing programs. It’s generated international attention.
“Basically, we came up with this idea a few months ago. We’ve gotten calls from people really from all over the world. They say: ‘I have this school, church, community building, can you help me [go solar]?’” Curtis said.
The company is looking to expand its offerings internationally.
“But we’re not there yet,” Curtis said. “We want to empower them to develop their own projects. That’s why we came up with the idea. When ‘Occupy’ took off, we saw this as kind of the next step.”
As part of the Occupy Rooftops campaign, the company is offering three tools to help communities with their own projects, according to Curtis. The company is offering an online guide to communities.It’s worked with Sungevity to do solar assessments on buildings, and it’s offering $1,000 planning grants, funded by an anonymous solar company, she said.
“We’re trying to make this accessible to as many people as possible,” Curtis said.
That means the system needs some flexibility in terms of how projects are financed in the community. In some, like in Oakland, it might require a micro-investment approach, where people get their money back over time, she said.
“That won’t work everywhere,” said Curtis.
In the guideline, they’ve outlined a number of different financing models, including co-ops, utility help, and outright donations. The company also is setting up hour long coaching calls, where an interested project can talk with Solar Mosaic staff about how to get up and going, according to Curtis.
Image courtesy of the Asian Resource Center.