Crowdfunding: Making Solar Energy More Affordable?
July 2, 2012
By: Tanay Kothari
As a city that pioneers green technology growth, San Francisco has taken steps in recent years to ensure that this energy doesn't go to waste.
The city’s solar energy incentive program, GoSolarSF, co-founded by City Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, has encouraged more people to install clean solar energy in their homes and businesses. Since GoSolarSF began in 2008, the number of buildings in the city with solar panels has more than quadrupled, solar companies have relocated to San Francisco, and hundreds of new jobs have been created. Best of all, the program has actually helped the city gain new revenue.
However, solar energy can still be prohibitively expensive for most people, with costs that can exceed tens of thousands of dollars. With that in mind, a startup company in Oakland has found an interesting way to help communities afford it — crowdfunding.
Using Crowdfunding to Increase Access to Solar Energy
We’ve talked about crowdsourcing before — it’s the use of technology to allow people to take part in projects that could be thousands of miles away or right down the block. Crowdfunding brings together crowdsourcing and fundraising to organize individuals for otherwise expensive projects. Since October, the Oakland company Solar Mosaic has allowed individuals to contribute $100 — about the price of one solar panel tile — toward solar panel installation for a building in California or Arizona. The businesses receiving these panels would pay no money up front but would instead pay the lenders back incrementally.
If enacted on a greater scale, this would make it possible for businesses on a budget to install solar energy and enjoy the savings for decades. The idea has attracted enough attention from private investors that lenders could now actually receive a return on their investment.
Even without crowdfunding, many people are willing to pay for solar energy. In fact, for the past few years, GoSolarSF’s annual funding allocations have been exhausted far before the end of the budgetary year. There’s no doubt that the solar industry has the potential to grow, and as North America’s greenest city, San Francisco has welcomed it with open arms.