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Mosaic Is Using Crowdfunding To Refinance Solar Energy

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, January 25 2013

Mosaic, a crowdfunding venture focused on solar projects, was able to raise over $300,000 in its first 24 hours to fully fund its first public investment projects, according to Lisa Curtis, communications director at the company.

Mosaic's goal is to advance clean energy investment the same way Kickstarter funds new inventions and artistic endeavors, allowing individuals to take a new kind of collective action — with the politics of the pocketbook.

"If we can get more people to invest in the clean energy economy," Curtis said, "then we could have more people benefiting from this transition."

"We're democratizing clean energy," she continued, adding later on in the conversation, "there are a lot of people who would like to see more clean energy powering our country but can't go solar on their own home. Now they can invest directly in a solar project."

Mosaic first launched in April 2011 as a way of investing in solar projects through zero-interest loans. On Jan. 7, Mosaic offered a 4.5 percent return on investment to residents of New York and California, and to any accredited investor, willing to back three new solar projects to provide power for affordable housing developments in California. Earlier solar projects were meant to provide power for nonprofits in California and Arizona.

Altogether, Mosaic has raised $1.1 million from more than 700 investors who invested an average of $700. Mosaic charges investors a one percent annual platform fee.

The new projects were only available to funders on a limited basis because of restrictions the Securities and Exchange Commission places on private investment, Curtis explained. Mosaic is currently working with state securities agencies to offer funding opportunities in other states, and hopes to benefit from crowdfunding provisions in the JOBS Act.

The founders of the company, Billy Parish, Dan Rosen and Steve Richmond, were inspired by solar projects on a Navajo reservation. There were high upfront costs but low operating expenses, Curtis explained, in contrast to coal energy.

Mosaic works with a network of solar developers to identify potential projects from their portfolios. A financing committee examines the potential risks, and Mosaic also seeks advice from outside specialist attorneys, she said.

Projects of interests include schools and churches but also commercial sites such as convention centers, rather than regular residential buildings.

All the solar projects have already been constructed -- the funding from Mosaic is helping refinance them, Curtis explained, which minimizes risk for investors. That also allows the solar developers to invest their capital in new projects, Curtis said.

Interested investors can sign up on Mosaic's website to find about upcoming investments Mosaic will be offering.

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