Sep 302013

Boulder Colorado Solar PanelsLast week, we wrote about a few innovative efforts to crowdsource renewable energy, particularly solar garden and community solar efforts in Colorado — as well as an ambitious community wind project in the Netherlands.

Since we wrote about those efforts, a few more crowdfunded-solar news items have crossed our radar, making us think that there’s real steam behind people-powered renewable energy.

First, advocates in the city of Boulder, Colo., just closed the doors on a massively successful fundraising campaign to cut the city utility loose from Xcel Energy and create a local electric utility that relies on renewable energy. New Era Colorado earned $193,018 — nearly five times its goal of $40,000 — to make the Boulder public utility a reality, by educating voters and getting out the vote to counter an Xcel Energy-sponsored bill on the November ballot that New Era says would “kill our local electric utility process dead in its tracks.”

Here’s more of what they say about the goals of the campaign: “Boulder wants to break away from our current, coal-dominated utility — Xcel Energy — to create a local electric utility based on renewable energy. Feasibility studies have shown we could reduce our carbon emissions by over 50% immediately by shifting to cleaner energy. And we wouldn’t have to pay more than we do now, because we could afford a lot more renewable energy if we’re not paying for Xcel’s enormous profit margins. This is an incredible opportunity to create a landmark model for how communities all over the country can take control of their energy future.”

New Era has much more information, and is still raising money on their website.

The second story comes from New America Media, and aired on KALW public radio last week. It’s a profile of RE-volv, a nonprofit that lets individuals donate small amounts of money that are then pooled to help bring solar power to community centers.

From the article:

It happened for the Shawl Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley. As piano melodies spill out the door, and dancers walk in and out, Managing Director Rebecca Johnson explains how and why her studio went solar. For one thing, she says, they were spending about $400 a month on utilities. Then they noticed their neighbors.

“All our neighbors are totally residential homes and when they got solar, we thought wow our roof is the same exact slope as well,” says Johnson.

As they were figuring out their options and getting quotes, they got an unexpected offer. A man named Andreas Karelas offered them a lease to own system that would power 100% of the center’s electricity needs. They wouldn’t owe any money up-front and their monthly bill would drop.

When she saw the offer, Johnson says she thought, “the proposal it looks too good to be true. I don’t understand where the loophole is.”

RE-volv’s business model is much like that of Mosaic, which brings small-scale investors on board to fund solar projects, and guarantee a 4–6 percent rate of return. Just last week, Mosaic opened up a new project to investors, a 12.3-megawatt solar system on the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst joint Army-Navy base outside Trenton, New Jersey.

With all this momentum behind giving people power over their energy, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Boulder solar photo courtesy of New Era Colorado.

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