This post is part of Mosaic’s New Age of Energy Campaign. The campaign highlights the recent groundbreaking technological and financial developments that have recreated the clean energy landscape. Check out the campaign’s home page to view all of the exciting developments, vote below for your favorite, and be entered into the sweepstakes to win an awesome BirkSun solar backpack.
New advancements in legislation and financing allow nearly everyone to be involved in the clean energy revolution. In the U.S. a growing number of states have begun to adopt “shared renewables” laws that allow for community supported renewable energy projects or “solar gardens.” With a shared renewables law passed in 2010, Colorado has already demonstrated success in shared renewables projects and has inspired California and Minnesota to follow suit — passing legislation in 2013. Internationally, clean energy innovations promise to bring light to the over 1 billion people without electricity.
Shared renewables bills allow people to purchase a portion of a renewable energy project through their utility and then earn reductions in their electricity bill each month. This allows people to engage in clean energy regardless of their roof’s suitability for solar. California just passed a bill that will open 600 MW of shared renewables to the public over the next few years.
New Investment Platforms
New developments in financing have also paved the way for more people to participate in clean energy. Mosaic’s online platform allows people to invest in solar energy projects across the country and earn steady returns. Mosaic “democratizes” clean energy because people can invest as little as $25. This means that people don’t need to own homes, don’t need to have an ideal roof and don’t need access to large amounts of capital to support solar.
You Can Get Solar On Your Roof for $0
If you are a homeowner with a decent roof, but still don’t have thousands of dollars to purchase a solar system, new models have emerged over the last few years to allow you to go solar with $0 down. Residential solar companies like Sungevity, Sunrun, and SolarCity install solar systems on your roof, which you pay off each month, while you immediately save money on your electricity bills.
Solar in Developing Countries
More than ¼ of the world’s population lives without access to reliable electricity. This is 2.5 billion people. In order to make light, many people light kerosene lamps that are incredibly harmful to their health and environmentally damaging. Kerosene lamps contribute over 200 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. Globally, there are more deaths from kerosene fires, ingestion, or air pollution than Malaria. It’s also financially burdensome. Families often spend up to ⅓ of their income trying to light their homes.
Solar can provide effective, tailored and relatively cheap solutions for electrification. Many companies already sell small solar lighting and charging devices that allow people to study or work at night and charge cell phones and other small appliances. These appliances have already been distributed to tens of millions of people worldwide. There are also exciting advances in solar microgrids, a small solar array that could power a village of 10 – 100 households that aren’t connected to a main energy grid.
Larger scale solar installations hope to scale solar energy beyond households and villages to entire countries. The largest solar plant in Africa opened in April of 2013 and will provide Mauritania with 15% of its electricity. India finished an enormous 605 MW solar installation in Gujarat that will save 8 million tons of CO2 each year. Perhaps the most exciting numbers involve the amount of investment flowing into renewable projects in the developing world. Last year $112 billion was invested in clean energy projects in the developing world. In the Middle East and Africa, spending grew 228% from 2011.
The New Age of Energy Campaign
Jacob Sandry is an Energy Studies scholar at Yale University and a fellow at Mosaic. He has worked in Colorado to protect endangered waterways and in Bolivia to protect animals rescued from the black market. Jacob has been to 5 continents, but originally hails from Minnesota where he developed his appreciation for the environment by camping, hiking and running. Follow him on twitter @yaakovsandry.