Why Give a Damn:

You (yes, you.) the individual energy user can directly benefit from funding developments in solar and shape the technology behind it. A  platform called Mosaic combines crowdfunding and solar energy innovation. This type of creative, hybrid thinking is how The Next Great Generation (…that’s you, again.) will lead 21st century energy development.

The author of this post, Danny Kennedy, is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of one of the foremost solar companies in the world, Sungevity.

An ingenious funding platform called Mosaic, specifically for solar project developers, has recently released “investor grade products” in the peer-to-peer funding marketplace. Each Mosaic project makes money from the electricity it generates. I want to provide some context as to why this is a big deal for you (the energy consumer) and a significant step for 21st century infrastructure development.

Web-enabled, peer-to-peer funding platforms allow all kinds of people the opportunity to build their own small businesses. The model is currently booming—ePropser and Lending Club, which are peer-to-peer lending variations on the theme, each move hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Like eBay a decade ago and Kiva in the developing world, online funding platforms have created a notable shift in digital commerce. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts said in Congress a year ago that crowdfunding “has the potential to be a powerful new venture capital model for the Facebook and Twitter age and its potential to create jobs is enormous.”

With Mosaic, site users can choose to invest in an existing solar project or to set up a “mosaic” of their own. This can be capitalized by other people choosing to invest and buy a piece in your solar project. This creates a situation where information technology meets energy technology—IT and ET—and supports the business models that matter in recovering from the Great Recession. This type of work is spawning our New Greatest Generation, which is my pun on both the people and the technology — solar — that will power us in the future.

The disruption of the energy and the finance worlds will be enormous. The Information Age brought the impact of local, social, and mobile software linked to an information layer of existing infrastructure. This has transformed nearly every industry on the planet. Energy consumers, however, are still constricted by nineteenth-century energy sources and business models. We need serious innovation in our electricity- generating infrastructure, which has stagnated. Our talented technologists should be doing meaningful—even epic—engineering to refocus on this nexus. True innovation, on the level of the first Greatest Generation, is required. We need more of the type of thinking which got us to the moon.

Projects like Mosaic present an exciting example of the thousand great ideas coming out of the “CleanWeb” space every month. The declining costs of solar cells and panels will lead to lots of new uses—such as replacing dirty diesel generators and accelerating the demand for microgrids around local, clean power. Some of these may be “virtualized,” which means they use software to aggregate multiple sources to help make these largely invisible and decentralized power sources more valuable to utilities and grid operators. Think of the way some computing is done by networked machines (rather than one big supercomputer). Coordinating this infrastructure evolution into smooth service will require the imagination and the skills at which American ingenuity excels.

As expressed in Rooftop Revolution, I subscribe to the theory that the retail electricity market in homes and businesses will be turned on its head in the next few years by new technologies and that smaller players selling clean electricity will be better positioned than the large incumbents with their dirty power. This is because the future of the electricity business is on the house, rather than out front on a pole in the street.

In the new scenario of this sunshine mesh, utility companies would give up some of their traditional top-down control over both the supply and the transmission of electricity to become, at least partially, an integral part of an electricity network involving thousands of small energy producers. In this scheme the utility company would become the manager of the energy Internet. Its profit model moves increasingly away from selling its own energy to becoming a service provider, using its expertise and infrastructure to manage other people’s energy.

But to get to this ideal state, corporations and society need a push. Entrepreneurs in all forms can do a lot of the work. Much of the rest will be done by solar citizens supporting our New Greatest Generation. It’s time that those of us who believe we can forge our future should stop talking and start doing. It’s the only way to get the global economy and our planet back on track.

An Unreasonable Challenge:

Jump in and help make the choices that will power our world. To be a good solar citizen make sure that you have taken the pledge to “Do SUNthing” and get yourself a piece of the action at Mosaic.

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Danny Kennedy

Author Danny Kennedy

Danny is the co-founder and president of Sungevity and SfunCube, and a clean-tech environmentalist and seasoned social entrepreneur. He is the author of the book, The Rooftop Revolution.

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