April 20th represented a milestone for Solar Mosaic, Ella Baker Center and Green for All community, marking the fundraising conclusion of an exciting fifth solar panel project on the rooftop of St. Vincent de Paul in Oakland, CA. All of the funds were raised through community crowdsourcing, providing a local, zero-interest investment strategy for community solar projects.
In this model, Mosaic finances these projects and then leases the panels to individuals and organizations that wish to participate. People invest through Mosaic, the solar power plant is built, and, although there is no expectation of return, investors may earn a return from the project’s revenue. Mosaic plans to provide a return to investors for the first time this summer.
To date, more than 400 investors have contributed more than $350,000 to build five “rooftop solar power plants” for: The Asian Resource Center (Oakland), People’s Grocery (Oakland), The Murdoch Community Center (Flagstaff, AZ), Shonto Begay’s Home (Navajo Nation, AZ) and, now, St. Vincent de Paul.
In addition to providing a vehicle for a cooperative form of local investment, Oakland Solar Mosaic estimates that the three Oakland-based projects have created 110kW of community solar power, generated 2,540 job hours, and will save community organizations more than $500,000 over the next 20 years.
Mosaic hope to expands to model to communities across the nation. Currently, state investment laws restrict this type of local investing to a small handful of states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New York, Oregon and Washington. Despite state hurdles, this type of community ownership and innovative use of leveraging community resources to help create a green, equitable economy is exciting to see - and there is plenty of room for new development in the states that currently allow it.