Kickstarter helps a crowd fund...well, practically anything, from a new type of bicycle gadget to a great piece of music by an unknown. Kickstarter is democratic and widely copied (Indiegogo, Pozible), but not specifically sustainability or clean-energy oriented. When you get right down to it, many of the things funded through the service aren't really necessary, they are just generally innovative or desirable in some way.
But what if we, the people, could help fund a clean energy revolution right in our backyards? Thus far, solar energy in particular has had to look for different funding models due to high initial installation costs, both for homeowners and for larger projects. One successful model, spearheaded by SolarCity, helps homeowners install solar panels for low or no investment costs, instead tapping into subsidies and sharing in the profit from the power generated.
Mosaic is yet another new way to help put more solar power on the U.S. energy map. They are crowd-funding solar energy, and already this young entity has raised money for more than $1 million in solar projects in the U.S., including a 26kW set of solar panels on the St. Vincent de Paul building in Oakland, California, (pictured above) and a 112 kW project on an affordable (and eco-friendly) housing unit in San Bruno, California.
Projects are put together to give potential investors the facts about a prospective solar installation, generally on commercial and multi-unit housing buildings. Like with Kickstarter, 'crowds' from the Internet cloud decide whether or not a project is worthy of funding (though none of Mosaic's projects have failed to get funding thus far).
Then they funnel people's investment dollars to put up solar panels, charging its investors a 1% 'platform' fee annually (assessed monthly). Investors, who must have an account with Mosaic, get a portion of their principal paid back to them each month, plus the interest (each project has different estimated returns).
The payments to investors are kept in the investors' Mosaic accounts, and are FDIC insured up to $250,000. When an investor wants to get some of their account money, it can be transferred to a personal bank account, or used for other Mosaic investments.
Mosaic still has barriers to overcome. Currently, while waiting for the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue guidelines for "cloud funding portals," Mosaic is only open to California and New York and high-net-worth individuals.
Lisa Curtis, a spokesperson for the company, said they are eager to allow more people to participate in funding solar projects, and for as little as a $25 investment. And it seems people are equally eager to invest - four projects Mosaic put out just two weeks ago were fully funded for more than $300,000 within 24 hours.