How Community Solar Lets Everyone Participate

By Brian Foley, Sierra Club

Renewable energy is great for the planet and human health. And unlike fossil fuels, anyone can become a clean-energy producer by adopting some panels or a small turbine. But one of the overlooked aspects of renewable energy is the innovative ways in which it can be financed.

Take Solar Mosaic for example, which last month turned on the switch of a 120-panel system at the Asian Resource Center, a non-profit in Oakland, California. This wasn’t a typical purchase or leasing deal. This “community solar” project had the backing of supporters who invested $100 toward a portion of the panels. With this deal, Solar Mosaic then leases the panels to the Center at a rate below what utilities typically charge. Then the solar company takes that money and gives it back to the investors, who get their money back in full within eight years.

image via Solar Mosaic

Thanks to this financing structure, just about anyone with $100 can go solar without having panels physically placed on his or her property. Solar Mosaic’s CEO Dan Rosen told greentechmedia, “This is definitely the way to unleash solar to everyone. We are creating a virtual product that lets anyone go solar on someone else’s roof. More than anything else, it’s a desire to make the world a better place and see solar developed. We invest in the community, create jobs and solarize the world.”

The Center will save more than $100,000 on its utility bills over 20 years. Solar Mosaic is now “partnering with the Ella Baker Center, a human rights and environmental activism nonprofit in North Oakland, to find organizations that serve low-income communities and communities of color, and might be good sites” for more community solar projects. Have you ever heard of community coal or community oil? Of course not. Need more details on how this works? Learn everything you need to know about community solar here.

Editor’s Note: This column comes to us as a cross post courtesy of Sierra Club. Author credit for the post goes to Brian Foley.

1 Comment

  • Reply November 11, 2011

    Lisa Curtis

    Great post! There’s another way that Solar Mosaic is helping everyone participate in community solar: through Community Solar Day on November 20th! Solar Mosaic is offering a free online guide, a site assessment and $1,000 project planning grants to communities who are serious about going solar. Sign-up at

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