The State of Crowdfunding in Renewable Energy

In 2009, a climate change documentary titled, the Age of Stupid, was funded by over 600
supporters. Since then, crowdfunding has been a big buzzword in the realms of sustainability, green initiatives, and renewable energy. Clean energy sits at an interesting intersection between an invested, enthusiastic group of individuals and a government that is on the fence, vacillating between guarded interest and distrust. As such, those interested in clean energy have often been frustrated with the less-than-hoped-for funding dollars they see being given to their pet cause. Often, when people talk about being sustainable now, they talk of what you can do on an individual level–shutting off computers, unplugging power strips, turning off the lights, and getting better insulated windows. With crowdfunding, however, people are hoping that instead of just making personal changes to be greener, they’ll be able to make a community commitment to and collective investment in green initiatives.

This hope is further increased by the upcoming opportunity for equity crowdfunding, which will allow smaller green businesses to grow with the help of the community. It will allow people to share the risk of investing with many other individuals, and it will allow them to invest in a cause they care about, buying equity shares in green initiatives.

Launcht recently sat in on a Sustainablog Google+ Hangout, where a number of people came to discuss their experience with crowdfunding. They discussed oft-cited crowdfunding woes–drawing the crowd, getting initial funders, and overcoming disappointments–and also discussed the way that crowdfunding can play a role in a sustainable economy. Namely, TriplePundit is using crowdfunding to fund a new series they will publish on what they call the Sharing Economy. To date, they have raised over $17,000 on IndieGoGo, still shy of their $25,000 goal, but allowed to keep what they raise. They posit that crowdfunding can help us put money into the economy without becoming increasingly materialistic. Instead of using money to buy things, we can use it to fund projects, especially those that encourage sharing resources. For their campaign, they use perks that encourage sharing–bike shares, car shares, and couch surfing, to name a few. The idea goes along nicely with the movements that have been rising around Black Friday and “Buy Nothing Day.” If you’re interested in how this can work, look out for our Crowdfunding Holiday Gift Guide, coming later this week.

TriplePundit chose IndieGoGo, which acts as a crowdfunding catch-all, but there are also an increasing number of green-specific crowdfunding platforms:

  • Fundageek: not green-specific, but the site is specifically for science and technology-themed crowdfunding campaigns, and often attracts green projects
  • GreenFunder: a site specifically for “green” projects, defining green as “anything with good intentions,” so often socially-responsible business
  • GreenFundraising: this site is a service offered by Green VC, and focuses on sustainability and healthy living.
  • GreenUnite: this site tries to bring the green community together through a number of different avenues. It offers resources for those who want to learn more about being green, from personal changes they can make to information on global warming, highlights eco-friendly companies, and has a crowdfunding branch as well.
  • Mosaic: this site already successfully raised over $350,000 for solar projects in its first phase, which worked on a state level, and now is waiting for the SEC to finalize regulations before launching a full equity crowdfunding to support solar power initiatives
  • SunFunder: the mission of this site is to bring power to the 1.5 billion people who lack  electricity in the world and to do it through solar power by leveraging crowdfunding and by connecting with established solar businesses

Many of these sites are not live yet, either waiting for equity or the right projects, but many of them have had successful “soft” launches or trial rounds. It is clear that clean energy and green movements are taking an interest in crowdfunding, and we hope to continue to see new crowdfunding platforms and campaigns that support sustainability, renewable energy, and green initiatives. It is a great way for those invested in the idea of green energy to create a very visible crowd around the initiatives, which will not only help fund these projects, but will also help to reinforce the idea that green energy is something that is important to people and something that big businesses and government should pay attention to at the behest of its citizens.

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