Solar Mosaic –Financing Solar with Crowdfunding


A new solar financing start-up has emerged with a vision of becoming the Kickstarter of solar, as it allows small-scale investors, for as little as 25 Dollars, to invest in solar projects in need of capital. The company, Solar Mosaic, currently employs 14 people, and is a private, venture-backed start-up that was founded in 2011. In May 2012 it raised $2.5 million dollars in a first round of venture funding led by Spring Ventures of San Francisco. In June 2012, the department of Energy in the USA awarded Mosaic a 2 million dollar Grant through its SunShot initiative.

Like other third-party solar financing companies, Solar Mosaic allows individuals to install rooftop solar for little to no upfront cost and then either lease the panels or buy power on a long term contract with the financing company. Rather than raise capital from banks and large accredited investors like the larger established solar financing companies Solarcity, SunRun and Clean Power Finance, Solar Mosaic allows any individual to invest in solar projects in increments down to $25 USD.

These small investments are structured as loans with a minimum fixed annual return of 4.5%, often higher. In mid December, Solar Mosaic celebrated financing their sixth solar project. This specific project, involved an installation financed by 51 individual investors and an anonymous donor. Together they raised $40,325 to purchase and install a 47 kw solar system on the roof of the Youth Employment Partnership (YEP) facility in Oakland, California. With this project, the non-profit organization (YEP) is projected to save $160,000 in reduced electricity over the lifetime of the project. YEP will be leasing the solar system for monthly payments based on the electricity generated, Solar Mosaic expects an annual return of 6.38% over a 60 month term for investors in the project.

Solar Mosaic is a good example of the crowdfunding method making its way into financial models. Crowdfunding has often been used to raise funds for philanthropic efforts, cultural events and projects such as art or film and consumer products. With the rapid success of startups like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and many others, crowdfunding has fostered a new marketplace bringing together projects and entrepreneurs with funding disperse funding sources.

Solar Mosaic’s innovation is that for the first time average individuals are able to invest in solar in small increments for a stable, low risk return on investment. This gives people passionate about clean energy, a chance to put their money to work. On the other side Solar Mosaic provides a low cost financing option for facilities interested in going solar. It will be exciting to follow this new company and the recent trend that accelerates the deployment of renewable energy by connecting new financing sources to quality projects.

The Hidden Revolution

Ever wonder about the billions of dollars of equipment and infrastructure needed for you to be able to turn on your bedroom light, wash the laundry, or perform any of the hundreds of daily tasks one does that require steady, reliable electricity?   As the Director of Commercial Clean technology here at the Innovation Center Denmark, I think about it all the time.  I think about it because there is a mostly hidden revolution happening around the world with Denmark and California leading the cause.

At the Innovation Center Denmark, Silicon Valley, we recognize the unique bridge we form between these two innovative Smart Grid economies.  In 2013, we will therefore launch the Smart Grid Advisory Group to bring together experienced operators, researchers, and entrepreneurs from both Denmark and California Smart Grid sectors to foster partnerships, transactions, and to push the state of the art in grid technologies and operations.

We want to change the fact that most people have little idea of what makes the power grid tick or how dependent their lifestyles are on it.  However, when you experience a prolonged power outage, you soon realize how important a reliable power supply is, how quickly it can be interrupted, and how long – and frustrating – it can be to get it back.  Part of the reason for all of this is that we are dealing with electricity and it cannot (yet) be efficiently collected for example, on a sunny day and stored for a rainy one.  Instead, engineers, utilities, regulators, and entrepreneurs have had to build a machine so vast and so complex that it can generate electricity virtually at the instant when you turn on a light switch or plug your phone into its charger.  Multiply that responsiveness across billions of devices demanding electricity, hundreds of power plants producing the electricity, and thousands of miles of wires transmitting the electricity, and it’s pretty close to a miracle that the machine works at all, never mind that it works steadily and constantly throughout the day and year.

In addition, demand is anything but steady – people turn on and turn off devices throughout the day.   This unsteady demand requires electricity supply and generation that can meet it even at the busiest ‘peak’ times, and quickly ramp down when it slows.  Fortunately, for the incredible people who work in the power supply field, there is a lot of historical data and hard lessons learned such as the great Northeast blackout of 2003 that enable operators to pretty accurately predict what the demand will be and when, and how much power they will need to meet it.

Adapting big changes to this equation is extremely challenging. Failure to adequately adjust can be catastrophic, which is one big reason why the utility industry tends to be so conservative – when power goes out, people don’t just lose money, they can lose life and limb.

It is incredible then to consider that grids around the world are experiencing just such rapid change right now with the push for electric vehicles, solar power, wind farms, iPhones, and the mammoth data centers to power all of our Google searches and Facebook posts.

Meeting the entire unprecedented surge in electricity demand is a rapid increase in the proportion of renewable energy making up the supply.  That renewable energy, often sourced from wind and solar energy, is relatively unpredictable.  This unpredictable supply or intermittency effectively adds yet another challenge to keeping the power demand and supply of the power grid in balance.

With a goal of moving from 30% today to 100% renewable electricity generation by 2050, Denmark is arguably the most experienced market in the world with balancing these new electricity supply and demand dynamics.  California also has ambitions goals too increase the share of renewable generated electricity in its energy mix, but on a far larger scale than even Denmark due to the relative sizes of the two economies.

Viva la Revolución Oculto!!

By Patrick Stanton

Greener cities – Copenhagen taking the lead

Going green is a global issue, but some cities do not wait for international agreements to reach goals on becoming greener. Copenhagen is aiming at becoming the first CO2-neutral capital in 2025, and the city is actively measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, and has already been able to report a reduction of 5.2%.

Further, the recent Global Green Growth Forum located in Copenhagen kicked off the Green Growth Network, which is being led by the city of Copenhagen. The Green Growth Network has the aim of cities sharing and discussing best practises on how cities can work with private sector organisations, establish green clusters, establish an economic rationale for green growth and justify the benefit of green policies.

That Copenhagen is a green frontrunner is backed by the recent OECD Report Measuring the Potential of Local Green Growth. This report describes Copenhagen as an environment with significant first-mover advantages with green industries and technologies, and points out that the cleantech cluster in the Greater Copenhagen Area is one of the leading cleantech clusters in the world. This is due to factors like public sustainability strategies, a tradition of collaboration and consensus-building within the political system, knowledge sharing and research cooperation as an integral part of the cluster, and a highly specialised pool of talent.

These factors have led to the city of Copenhagen performing better than the OECD average on parameters such as per capita emissions, energy consumption, water consumption, regional waste collection, per capital recycling, R&D employment and ‘green’ patents.

The conclusions of the OECD report are backed by The 2012 Global Green Economy Index , issued by Dual citizen. Denmark comes in the top with regards to green perception as well as performance. Of the top green cities Copenhagen also comes out with a very strong reputation.

Danish Black Silicon Solar in the Global Forum Final

For the second year, cleantech innovations from around the world gathered to compete in the Global Cleantech Open Ideas Competition. Two promising Danish companies emerged from the Regional Finals to qualify for the opportunity to win the global prize: Me-Mover and Black Silicon Solar 

At the Cleantech Open Global Forum taking place in San Jose, CA November 15-16,  Rasmus Davidsen and Hjalmar Nilsonne, the two founders of Black Silicon Solar took the expert jury by storm, making it to the final 6. To get to that point, the two students from the Technical University of Denmark, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden competed with more than 1,000 other applicants from across the world, and finally the 23 companies that traveled to Silicon Valley to participate in the Global Forum.

At the same time, attendees and organizers alike lined up to get a chance to try out Jonas Eliasson’s Me-Mover both before and after he presented it on stage.

Swedish ReformTech also made it all the way to the final 6, but in the end Chilean Biofiltro won the prize for its water treatment technology using earthworms to process organic matter in water.

Hvor bliver pengene af?

Der bliver idag investeret mange penge i Clean Tech af venturekapitalfonde (VC), dog ikke så mange som tidligere. Under et arrangement ved navnet ”Clean Tech BIG-Where´s the Capital? – A Clean Tech Perspective on What Investors Want to See” (arrangeret af SVASE), i den forgangne uge blev netop emnet omkring investorernes synsvinkel på Clean tech sektoren debateret. Continue reading “Hvor bliver pengene af?”

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