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The Solar Contagion

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett is the latest high-profile investor to catch the solar bug, with a $2 billion investment in a solar farm in California and major stake in a $1.8 billion solar project in Arizona. Buffet’s investment follows on the heels of a race among the tech giants Google, Facebook, Apple and IBM to get their piece of the solar pie. Even the normally conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) has gone bullish on solar, predicting a compound annual growth rate of 35% on solar thermal and 12% on solar PV for the next two and half decades.
With solar emerging as an exciting new asset class, you would think every American would be jumping to fill their rooftops and stock portfolios with some sunshine.

But the truth is that only around 22% of residential rooftops are suitable for solar and, of those homeowners, not everyone has the money or credit scores to go solar on their own roof. Existing methods of investing in solar — through CDs (certificates of deposit) or in publicly traded solar company stocks —  offer, respectively, paltry returns and significant risk. With such a reliable, profitable and enormous growing market, there must be a better way to help this tide lift all boats.

Nobody likes filling up their car with the thought of those dollars headed to preserve oil interests in the Middle East or flipping on their light switch to the tune of mountains collapsing in West Virginia. But that’s our current energy system, one powered by pollution and controlled by a small number of multinational corporations.

We’re at a tipping point. Global energy needs are projected to skyrocket and our climate is heating up fast–with devastating floods and fires already impacting communities across the globe. We need clean sources of energy and we need them now. But how are we going to get there?

The answer lies in the most important word in that question: We. In 30 short years the internet has transformed the world and facilitated the rapid mobilization of all kinds of capital — financial, human and intellectual — to solve problems. Web 2.0 applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, user-centered design, and collaboration through the internet have already revolutionized the media industry and are beginning to shake up every other sector of our society — everything from food to health care to government. Though each movement is different, they share some fundamental principles:

  • The more the merrier: The movements become more useful, powerful, resourceful the more people that are participating. (This is also known as “Network Effects” or more colloquially, “Go big or go home.”)
  • Collaboration is king: transparency, crowdsourcing, open source are the internet’s namesake
  • Ongoing innovation: These movements are, by their nature, more open to new ideas and enabling of disruptive technologies than previous  mobilizations

So how do get to Energy 2.0? We start by letting more people participate in the contagion of solar. By letting everyone be a leader in the energy revolution. By democratizing our energy system, one solar share at a time. That’s what Mosaic is about. If you haven’t already, reach out to us with your ideas and join the movement. As we like to say, together we can all go solar.