Occupy Rooftops Seeks to Start a Community Solar Revolution

PaulS via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

As we've pointed out a number of times already, there are myriad links between the Occupy Wall Street movement and modern environmentalism. The biggest and most obvious is that our energy supply is largely controlled by the 1%. Fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries are among the largest and most profitable in the nation, and they exert their influence over the political process to deprive the 99% of something we all want: Clean, secure energy.

These companies dedicate vast resources to keep renewable energy down in a number of ways. They a) use a legion of lobbyists to push Washington to oppose carbon pricing policies, limit tax breaks to renewable energy, and keep their own generous subsidies in place (remember, Exxon spends more on lobbying than the entire domestic clean energy industry combined). They b) mobilize opposition to clean energy policies by funding various front groups like Americans For Prosperity, and c) finance the campaigns of politicians that can be counted on to vote against measures that would level the playing field for clean energy.

In essence, a small number of exceptionally powerful companies are avidly working to ensure that we remain hooked on fossil fuels; that they continue to make exorbitant profits refining and selling them to us. But, just as the Occupy Wall Street protesters are demonstrating that we can stand our ground against the big banks, clean energy advocates hope to show that we fight the fossi fuels oligopoly, too.

Arlington County via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Occupy Rooftops, a stunt organized by community solar advocate Solar Mosaic, aims to make that point this November 20th. See, community solar power is basically the polar opposite of our current energy model. The idea is to crowd-fund the upfront costs for local solar projects that residents wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Everyone chips in, everyone benefits -- and the community is no longer as dependent on fossil fuels. Power is literally placed in the hands of the people. (For more details on community solar, see this intro at Solar Mosaic)

In other words, as Jamie Henn of 350.org recently tweeted “When energy is in the hands of the 1%, we get #KeystoneXL. When it's in the hands of the 99%, we get @Solarmosaic."

Occupy Rooftops is looking to raise awareness by organizing meetups and actions in cities around the world on Community Solar Day. Participants will identify a location in their community that's ideal for a solar installation, and they'll "occupy" the rooftop with panels for a photo-op. It seems unlikely that this action will get anyone's adrenaline pumping (marching en masse to call out big banks it ain't), but it could draw the attention of local leaders and make for a nice photo collage to help promote the effort down the road.

Representatives will be on hand to help those who are interested in organizing community solar projects start the planning process. There will be step-by-step community solar guides, free solar assessments from Sungevity, and even $1000 planning grants from First Solar to communities that are ready to take the plunge. Check the Meetup page for more details, and to see what's happening in your city.

Billy Parish, a founder of Solar Mosaic, described the motivation for the event in an email to me: "Coming off the HUGE victory with the KeystoneXL pipeline and the continuing headlines made by the Occupy movement, Community Solar Day represents an opportunity to go on the offensive, a real alternative that people can drive at a local level."

Continued outrage at the fossil fuel companies--and the 1% in general--could indeed draw more people towards supporting (and investing in) community solar projects. And the case for more distributed solar is beyond air-tight. Simply put, Solar Mosaic and co. are right: It's time to occupy our rooftops.

Tags: Activism | Solar Energy | Solar Power

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