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Why “Community” Solar?

Community solar is a term for solar projects that are owned by and benefit communities. In practice, these projects can take a variety of forms but the basic idea is simple: by pooling money, space, and other resources, communities can make solar power a reality where individuals cannot.

Polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans want to go solar. At the same time, a number of trends—from dramatic declines in the physical costs of solar equipment to new financing models—are making solar financially competitive with fossil fuel-based sources of energy. So why do so many roofs still lack solar panels?A big part of the answer is that about 75% of U.S. residential rooftop space is not physically suitable for installing solar arrays. Moreover, many of the country’s roofs are owned by the wrong people. Renters pay utility bills, and thus stand to gain the most from rooftop solar installations, but don’t control their roofs. Landlords have the power to install solar arrays, but have little financial incentive to do so. Then there’s the fact that some people have difficulty qualifying for financing programs that make solar affordable.

All of the above helps to explain why we here at Mosaic see community solar as one of the keys for creating a clean energy future. Across the country, factories, non-profit centers, schools, churches, urban brownfields, and apartment complexes are waiting for their day in the sun. To make it easy for communities to come together to put up shared solar power systems is to open the floodgates to a sun-powered future.

To date, the main challenge of creating community solar has been that each new community group has to reinvent the wheel. A typical effort might entail negotiating with a utility; learning about federal, state and local energy and land use regulations; determining what financing and ownership structures maximize benefits from incentive programs; and working with a solar developer to actually build a community solar array. Though many communities have succeeded in creating shared solar arrays, many others have failed or seen their project revenues be overwhelmed by costs.

Mosaic’s mission is to make it simple for communities to create and benefit from solar energy projects. More than 400 people have already used our platform to band together and fund five large community solar projects. Now we’re developing a new platform that will help to dramatically scale community solar projects across the United States.

To learn more about our forthcoming platform, sign up now to receive an invitation to the Mosaic launch.