Crowdfunding the Solar Mosaic

The Ella Baker Center is excited to be partnering with Solar Mosaic to bring community solar to Oakland. To learn more about how this whole crowdfunding thing works, we interviewed Billy Parish one of Solar Mosaic's founders. Will you tell Ella's Voice Readers a bit about Solar Mosaic? We're a for-profit social enterprise with offices in Berkeley, CA and Flagstaff, AZ. Solar Mosaic is both the name of our company, but it’s also what we call a community-funded solar project. Just like art mosaics which are made out of many small tiles, with a Solar Mosaic, many people come together to finance a community solar project. How does this new model called crowdfunding work? Instead of a single owner, like a bank or utility company, crowdfunding enables regular people to join together to finance a project. Through the efforts of many, great things can be accomplished. Crowdfunding can take many different forms, but in our case it starts with the "Tile." A Tile is a $100 share of a community solar project. It’s like owning solar, except not on your roof. People who buy a tile in the Oakland Solar Mosaic project not only will be able to get their money back in about 8 years, but they’ll also create jobs, reduce carbon pollution and help local non-profits in Oakland save over 350,000 in their utility bills.
Why is this the best way to fund solar projects?
Many community-oriented buildings like schools, churches and non-profits don’t have the upfront capital to pay for solar installations, and many individuals want to go solar but don’t own a home in a place where solar makes economic sense. And even if they did, the laws are so complex that going solar can be very challenging. We make it easy for building owners to go solar and to start saving money from day 1. No more huge up-front costs. No more huge interest rates from banks. The building hosts the solar installation and pays for the power over time. Everyone wins.
What is your vision for Solar Mosaic and crowdfunding?
This a model that can spread across Oakland, and then across the nation. We hope that the clean-energy future is not a mere switch in electrons, from electrons generated from fossil fuels to electrons generated from clean energy. We want to see communities prosper through the process. We think the internet will enable people to be creators, owners and producers of energy in the same way that the internet fundamentally democratized media. Think about it. 10 years ago it would have cost a lot of time and money to make a movie and broadcast it around the world. Now it’s just you with your smartphone and YouTube. In a few years, we hope to work with people everywhere to jumpstart a people-powered energy revolution. To get updates as the Solar Mosaic project takes off, sign up now. You can also be the first to have your solar purchase matched one for one by a generous celebrity donor by buying a tile.