1st-of-Its-Kind Community Solar Project

Community solar programs and projects of various sorts are hugely loved here on CleanTechnica, but a new community solar program in California is a little bit different than anything I’ve seen before (and it might be completely unique). It’s essentially crowdfunding the investment dollars for solar projects on community centers. (Think “Kickstarter for solar power on community centers.”) Solar finance company Solar Mosaic and Oakland’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights are the ones behind it.

Pluses: low-income communities can get cheaper electricity, more green jobs are created, and we cut greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollution. Minuses: …?

Oakland’s Asian Resource Center was the first community center to benefit from the program. It got its solar roof, a 140-kilowatt solar installation (enough to power about 35 homes), on October 12. “Our communities are hurting already, but we are not waiting for the worst,” Miya Yoshitani, associate director of Asian Pacific Environmental Network, said at the opening ceremony. ”We’re looking to build a solution-rich community. There’s no better time to bring low-income communities together and green our community.”

“We are courageous. We created something new. This is not an ordinary solar project. It represents the power of the crowd, the surplus of power that people employed to make it happen,” said Dan Rosen, CEO of Solar Mosaic.

How Solar Mosaic’s Program Works

Investors in these solar projects can either donate their money or they can get it back in 7-10 years (essentially as zero-interest loans). They can buy “tiles” of the solar roof, each representing $100 of the investment, through Solar Mosaic.

As soon as total investments hit the price of the targeted installation, the project gets built. “The community, which receives the solar project, signs a 20-year lease with Solar Mosaic for use of the panels and agrees to pay the company for the power from the panels at a much lower rate than a utility company charges,” Simona Drevensek of Greentech Media reports.

It’s a way for individuals with money to give back to society, essentially.

“Solar Mosaic is doing what banks do (but without them), while creating jobs and a sustainable future,” said Jeremy Liu, executive director of EBALDC (East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation).

“You save $112,000 over 20 years that would otherwise go to PG&E. It’s a way for the community to get jobs, power and be part of the solar revolution,” Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity, said.

OK, I Have Heard of Similar Program

If you were reading CleanTechnica about one month ago, you might remember a “Solar Schools” program started by UK climate activist group 10:10 that I wrote about on October 2. It is actually very similar. The only differences as far as I can tell are that investors in that program provide funding for solar power systems on.. schools, whereas the California program above does so for community centers, and that Solar Schools investors don’t have the option to get their money back.

Know of any similar projects? I’d love to hear about them, and I imagine others here would, too!