Is crowdfunding solar power the future financing model?

 

a crowd in front of solar panels

Crowd Funding Solar Is A Growing Trend

Will crowdfunding solar replace more traditional methods of funding solar energy readers?

At the time of writing we appear to be headed for a clean sweep of conservative governments across Australia (with the exception of the outpost of ACT). Though it is possible that the relatively progressive Weatherill government may retain government in South Australia through postal votes, it must be considered that the governments throughout the country will trend away towards support for renewable energy including solar.

Perhaps the relevant question is: Would this be a bad thing?

One of the themes that run through this column over the last couple of years has been the unhealthy reliance on government support for funding. This has created a “boom and bust” mentality in the industry as new governments are voted in and follow a populist, cost cutting platform.

With the lack of certainty from investors, long term funding is dealt a blow as the big money refuses (naturally enough) to commit their hard earned dosh into what is certainly a fluid playing field usually based on the election cycle.

Enter crowd funding solar.

A recent article in the consistently excellent TechRepublic frames this in a US context.

The March 13 article discusses the founding of the crowdfunding venture Mosaic by green entrepreneurs Billy Parish and Dan Rosen. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the piece was that Parish discusses the change to renewables in the light of good old fashioned wealth creation.

“We soon recognized that the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy represented perhaps the largest wealth creation opportunity of the century,” Parish told TechRepublic. “There‚Äôs enormous demand for investments with these characteristics but no real platform to make investing in them easy.”

The difference is that — through crowdfunding — anyone can become involved.

Parish said he wanted to create the opportunity for people to become involved at the pointy end of the crowdfunding solar platform by starting Mosaic.

“For me, Mosaic represents one of the biggest business opportunities and one of the biggest climate solutions on the planet,” he said.

The platform has the potential to unlock millions if not billions of dollars in renewable funding worldwide and may serve as a reliable alternative (compared to the boom and bust policy so beloved of our federal and state lawmakers).

Such alternatives though are not unique and we have previously covered the seed funding renewables organisation CORENA who have a similar goal of crowdfunding solar and other renewable projects with an Australian focus.

So is this the alternative to government’s state and federal fickle feed-in tariff changes and drastic funding cuts to key renewable agencies? With over one million domestic solar systems installed, Australians have already shown they are quite willing to take on board grassroots solar proposals. With the growth of community energy in the country, perhaps the crowdfunding model is the platform Australians will embrace?

So is crowdfunding solar a new lucrative renewable energy platform in which all Aussies can share? As always we’d appreciate hearing your views either here, or over at our Facebook and Google Plus Pages.

Comments

  1. Yes Minister says

    A few issues, none of which are insurmountable. Firstly Newman, with the aid of his equally distasteful mate Murdoch, has done a pretty good job of convincing Queensland sheeple that solar people are evil, consequently alternative energy is a four letter word in the deep north Secondly, solar farms are probably unviable without a FiT unless all production is used on-site. Queensland is the obvious example but I doubt other states are much different with the possible exception of South Australia. The ‘good old days’ of decent FiTs are past tense & the present age solar scene somewhat less attractive in terms of ROI. Somewhere in the future we’ll see more efficient batteries at lower cost together with horrendous retail electricity pricing & these will inevitably send power generation & distribution into a death spiral. My question is exactly when is the optimal time for crowd funding to be instigated. Clearly the past is dead and buried & the present isn’t particularly attractive. The future will almost certainly spell the end of avaricious rip-off merchants but I wonder if the future is too nebulous a concept in this context. I’d dearly love to establish a local non-profit solar farm but lack of FiT & extent of QLD government obstruction has put that project on hold indefinitely. When tts all said and done, a break even situation is OK but going backwards is not.

    • Thanks for the comment Yes Minister. Here in my part of the world (regional NSW) we’re seeing a lot of movement around community solar as the way forward. Clearly these people are seeing this as a viable alterative. Some of these initiatives appear to include crowd funding. Can you see the same in Qld?

      • Yes Minister says

        The concept of crowd funding is fine, in fact thats pretty much how I’d proposed bankrolling the solar farm I wanted to establish in my neck of the woods, although the term ‘crowd funding’ was never used. Some other mug had a similar idea for a few acres of perpetually mushy land unusable for any other halfway intelligent use at Carrara (few kilometers west of Broadbeach). For what its worth, the Carrara proposal was shelved in the face of concerted opposition from the Renewable Energy division of the Department of Energy & Water. What has been approved for the site is totally bizarre…. a multi-unit development incorporating two lifeboats & a helicopter to evacuate residents WHEN (not ‘if’) it floods. Problem in Queensland under the Newman / Seeney / Nicholls / McArdle / Bleijie dictatorship is that solar people generally are seen as spawn of the devil, renewable energy is regarded as something only the most rabid tree-hugging greenies would consider, and anything that threatens the profitability of mainstream power generation / distribution must be eradicated at any price. We might possibly have had a chance of building a non-profit community owned solar farm with the previous (Blighter) government, but its less than a pipe dream with the incumbent neanderthals. There isn’t even a snowflakes chance in hell of feed-in tariffs for any new PV installation, and no way known of distributing PV generated power except to residents dwelling on the same property where the power is generated. I guess that would allow the odd company title odd hippie commune (a la the ones outside Nimbin in northern NSW) to do their own thing without being concerned about incurring the wrath of Energy Minister McArdle, but to the best of my knowledge, the one lone example of a hippie commune in Queensland is Crystal Waters (south-west of Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland) & I don’t believe it uses company title. All that aside, I’d dearly love to get my teeth into any project that kicks the elected parasites where it hurts, but given the local political circus I can’t imagine how any significant project could be created.

  2. Pilliga Yowie says

    I have recently donated to a couple of solar PV enterprises and would be interested in any community enterprises being formed in the north- west of the state. could you let me know of any?

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