As the worldwide Occupy movement continues to run into resistance from police and governing authorities, one innovative organization dedicated to facilitating crowd-funded community solar energy projects has issued a global call for people to “Occupy Rooftops” on November 20, asking them to identify their local buildings with roof-space best suited for solar installations and to snap and upload photos of the empty, unused real-estate.
Eventually, the organization, Solar Mosaic, in conjunction with some 20 major national partners, will award a number of $1,000 planning grants those communities who are serious about pursuing solar on a grassroots scale. But first it needs to spread the word about Community Solar Day on November 20.
To this end, the organization has turned to social media and other Web tools to raise awareness, creating a Facebook page, a Meetup.com event and Vimeo videos pitching the idea. According to the Meetup page at the time of this posting, 94 communities around the world are set to participate.
“Our goal is to create clean energy for the people and by the people,” said Lisa Curtis, communications manager at Solar Mosaic, in a telephone interview with TPM. “We want to help provide people with the resources they need to do that. It’s no coincidence that the financial industry and the fossil fuel industry are very intertwined, and are together creating our dependence on fossil fuels. What we want to do is use this ‘Occupy’ momentum and focus on on the ground solutions, what we can do right now, without waiting for politicians.”
To participate, Solar Mosaic is asking people to follow a simple three-step process: “1) Find a building where you want to see solar in your hood, 2) Gather an allstar community solar team, 3) Snap a picture in front of your dream community solar project & send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
While the organization doesn’t specifically endorse climbing atop the potential solar-site rooftops, especially those which are off limits, Curtis told TPM that “We’ve had a couple who told us they are going to climb on the roof and take photos from there, and we’re open to that.”
The organization’s Community Solar Day FAQ website notes that it isn’t necessary for participants to get atop the roof, simply standing in front of the building for the photo will be enough.
As Curtis put it on the Solar Mosaic blog:
There are two definitions of “occupy.” The first has to do with residing in a certain space— this is a definition that we’ve seen from Wall St. in NYC to Zhengzhou, China with frustrated protesters occupying major financial districts and expressing their anger at the inequities of the global financial system. The second definition is a little different, it has to do with taking up a certain space or time. While this can be interpreted many ways, I tend to think of it optimistically as occupying a once unused space with something more positive, like solar.
Solar Mosaic will then be offering free site assessments, distributing guides to participants on how to go about starting their own community solar projects and will follow-up with the event organizers about taking their plans to fruition. The number of $1,000 grants Solar Mosaic will give out depends on how many people participate and are serious about pursuing Community Solar, according to Curtis.
Curtis also noted that one of the nation’s largest solar companies was bankrolling the grants process, but declined to name the company per their agreement.
Solar Mosaic, a Berkeley, California-based startup organization, was founded in 2010 with the goal of creating a “Kickstarter”-like model for solar energy, wherein community groups seeking to create their own solar installations can raise funds for their projects from locals online by selling “tiles,” or shares of the proposed solar installation. A building that agrees to host the solar array on its rooftop then purchases solar energy from the installation, and the original investors get paid back. Any leftover money is used by Solar Mosaic to start other solar projects.
So far, the organization has experienced success with its first community-financed solar installation, a 28.8 kW installation atop the Asian Resource Centre in Oakland, Ca., which was inaugurated in October after selling 890 tiles out of a total 982, Giga OM reported.
Solar Mosaic expects that project to save $100,000 in operating costs over the next 20 years.
Curtis said that since then, the organization has received calls for assistance from small communities around the globe, prompting Solar Mosaic to organize the first Community Solar Day.
“We’ve been getting really good feedback already,” Curtis said, “We’d love to do it annually.”
For more on how Solar Mosaic’s business model works, check out the following video.