"Occupy" movement moves to rooftops

17. November 2011 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends, Applications & Installations | By:  Jonathan Gifford

While the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, protesting against financial injustice, has spread to many cities in the U.S., Europe and even China, a global "Occupy Roofs" solar initiative is being launched out of California.

Photovoltaic panels on a roof.

Oakland's Asian Resource Center building received a 28.kW installation via the Solar Mosaic crowdfunding model. Image: Solar Mosaic.

Photovoltaic "crowdfunding" organization Solar Mosaic is planning the initiative for this Sunday, 21 November. Solar Mosaic spells out what it’s asking people to do on its website:

"1) Find a building where you want to see solar in your hood, 2) gather an all star community solar team, 3) snap a picture in front of your dream community solar project and send it to theteam(at)solarmosaic.com."

Solar Mosaic will then try and accumulate the funds needed for the installation.

Crowdfunding solar

The crowdfunding principal underpinning Solar Mosaic’s approach is that individuals can contribute towards a solar installation on a public, community or NGO-owned building. The contributor is then paid back his or her investment, as the installation pays for itself, and then future profits fed back into the next project, and so on.

Crowdfunding itself has flourished in the U.S. and elsewhere. Pioneering crowdfunding website Kickstarter now claims that it raises millions of dollars per week, from tens of thousands of contributors, to fund projects such as art installations, documentary films and novels.

Solar Mosaic has taken this model and applied it to solar. Each unit of investment into a photovoltaic project is called tile. Solar Mosaic co-founder Daniel Rosen explained recently to CNN, "The tile is really how we brand the shares of these projects. So all the tiles come together to make a mosaic, a solar installation."

At present each tile costs USD$100, but Solar Mosaic plans to expand this allowing different levels of investment in the future.

Occupy roofs

This weekend’s campaign is officially called Community Solar Day and is a truly global initiative. Groups have formed on seven continents and while the aim is not to physically occupy rooftops, the movement hopes to change people’s perception of photovoltaics.

On its site, Solar Mosaic says the initiative can create, "Clean energy created for the people." Arguing that an investment into a community photovoltaic project is as safe as a low-interest bank account, the group hopes to convince sufficient investors of this.

One of Solar Mosaic’s completed projects is a 28.8 kilowatt installation in Oakland, California. Located on the roof of the Asian Resource Center building, the installation will save the center $112,684 over the lifetime of the lease.

While founded by online entrepreneurs, Solar Mosaic has Sungevity co-founder Alec Guettel and SunEdison’s Jigar Shar as advisors.

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