A Smart Way to Finance Local Energy Abundance

Price Solar

This is a picture of all of the electricity a family will need for the next twenty years:

Price Solar

Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

It gets even better.

If every family in a community had an installation like this, the community would be close to never experiencing a blackout again.

On top of that, the community would be exporting energy.  Wealth would be flowing into the community and not out of it.

Amazing, isn’t it.   

So, why doesn’t everyone have an installation like this?

Until recently, even with government subsidies, it didn’t make economic or technological sense except in extreme situations.

That’s changed.  DIY solar energy is now ready for prime time (I’m currently working on a Solar Energy report that blows the lid off of this — stay tuned).

Despite that, many people still don’t have the upfront money needed to make it happen.

Here’s an innovative way to solve that problem:  Community Financing.

Community Micro-Financing for Solar Projects

Here’s an idea for a very simple community financing system from a company called Mosaic.

Currently, they make it easy for people to find, invest, and earn interest on high quality solar projects.

Mosaic Energy


The same mechanism could work as a way to finance solar in a community.

How?  By using the system like this to connect local DIY solar installations with individuals that are looking for tangible investments in their communities — everyone with a retirement account should be looking for this.  Not only is the outlook for global markets terrible, the current returns are abysmally low.

This is a win-win.

The local investors get returns 4% (!) higher than they get from treasuries and they are actually investing in something tangible in their own back yard.

The people doing the installation get electricity at a low (much less than they are currently paying) fixed rate and eventual ownership of the system.

Worth thinking hard about.


Resiliently Yours,



PS:  Imagine that.  Investing retirement savings at well above market rates in an asset that is actually doing some good for the community!  I’ll have more detail on this in my upcoming solar energy report for Resilient Strategies customers.

PPS:  This month’s Resilient Strategies conference call is with people behind the Garden Tower Project on Kickstarter.





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  • https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/4Y8U142036 andy


    You can’t possibly make panels for what you can buy them for now….under a buck/watt. You can’t get UL listing, which is what every utility requires.

    That system pictured is a 24 panels x (probably) 250w each, around 6,000w.

    Using Enphase micro inverters, and including the racking, it ought to have come in around 13-14k. ( DM solar, for example, is selling a 7.5kw system….30 panels…..for $15k)

    That’s a long way from 40,000.

  • Joe

    Flat panel solar is so old. This is what you need to produce electricity in an efficient manner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExRYpq6NM6U

    These guys designed a system in a cone with a lens that focuses light on the solar panel. The panel spins to keep the system cool because high temperatures reduce the system efficiency.

    These systems have a smaller footprint and can compete with the cost of coal.

    • https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/4Y8U142036 andy

      Great…..there’s always this super fantastic improvement just around the corner. So where does one BUY THESE ? Oh….yeah….never seems to have made it to the shelf.

      So, while some sit around waiting on the latest from MIT or someplace, others of us have been producing power for years with our “old” technology.

  • Matt P

    if that “mosaic” site hadn’t tried to sign me up including asking for my birthday and S.S. # before anything else, I might have pursued it. Looks too much like a scam, in eir present presentation. I’ll see if I can find out about them via other pathways!

    • John Robb

      Sorry about that. Unfortunately, although they have some of the elements required, I think they are still tied to the old financial approach. They need to be more open, like Kickstarter.

  • Vertis Bream

    Sorry to say; the pictured array would not make a community any more resilient.

    Grid-tie arrays do not work when the utility goes down. This is for safety reasons. You don’t want to sending power back out onto the grid when the grid is down. You don’t want to electrocute utility workmen. So, grid-tie inverters are designed to shut down the instant that they lose the frequency signal. Also, grid-tie arrays operate at very high voltages. The old norm was up to 600 volts and now up to 1000 volts is on the way. The only “conventional” way to have backup power is via the use of a battery based inverter. So, that means a battery bank and extra inverter. There is another method employing a combo grid/battery/tie inverter.

    But it too needs to be based on a low voltage (Currently 12,24 or 48V) battery bank.

    What this means is that a community based backup system would be prohibitively expensive and certainly not resilient, as all eggs would be in one basket. Better to have individual home power systems.

    • John Robb

      Vertis, Actually, a microgrid solves the old power model’s problems. With microgrids “islanding” is a feature and not a bug. Add to that microinverters with each home grid and CHP and we have something very close to the goal line. JR

      • Vertis Bream

        John, Unless there has been a price breakthrough, lately, the islanding/micro communtity based systems that I’ve looked at were much more expensive than

        custom designed individual home systems. Interested to see what you have cooked up. Who is going to do the maintenance on this system? How are you going to handle EMP? Where is the redundancy? If there is a catastrophic failure; will you be able to hack this system to make it operational? It gives me the jitters. Too much reliance on untested electronics. Islanding is expensive for a reason.

  • kunkmiester

    How much do I need to run one of these(among other things):


    for twenty years? THEN you’ll have my attention. I’m a machinist and a maker, not a gardener. Though I do plan to do a lot of that, I expect to make most of my money making things, and trading them for food. A bit more complicated.

    • John Robb

      K, Have you bought it? JR

      • kunkmiester

        Need a place to put it first, lol. I’m getting a house this year though barring unforseen events, so I’ll be getting it soon after that.

        Fact remains though, that even a modest shop for metal or wood used consistently will at least double a household’s electric demand. How do we power that kind of equipment without breaking the bank?

        • https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/4Y8U142036 andy


          Actually that machine you listed is not bad on power use…..1hp is about 750w, so it would only take about 4 panels and decent sun to offset the use of it in an 8hr/day run.

          Come down to my wood shop where I run 20hp or more at a time ( machines + dust collector + lights, etc )

          • kunkmiester

            This wouldn’t be the only one in the shop, and you probably wouldn’t want to limit yourself to one or two machines at a time, and don’t forget the steppers/servos on top of the spindle motor.

            20 hp in a machine shop can go pretty dang quick, even on one machine. Welding? I need to look up how much of our electricity generation is industrial/commercial rather than houses.

  • Rod Williams

    There is a new type of inverter which has recently become available that can greatly simplify the use of battery backup with PV systems, it will allow a homeowener with PV to use their own generated electricity at night. It can also provide whole house UPS and a central point for attaching a generator into the UPS/battery system. I would think this could be a real boon to resilient local grids.

  • Steve Palmer

    On the Solar issue, what happens on a cloudy day, or in the evening when there is no sun? You need power from the grid. Alternately, you can buy an expensive battery bank and inverter to run your house (unless of course you have a cloudy week)(Seattle). Only a certain portion of the country (Southwest) has adequate sunlight for good solar. Also, current efficiency is poor and efficiency drops as temperature goes up. Solar is a terrible alternative with current technology, but may become competitive in the future (in the Southwest). Battery technology has a long way to go as well.

    • John Robb

      Don’t think of this as a one step fix. We didn’t get to the energy system we have today (and the current mess we are in) in one step. This is the first step. I’ll write up the next steps to independence soon.

      BTW, the cost of solar is so low now, it is cost competitive with existing systems. It’s so competitive, you can almost treat it as an income source longer term. They key is in doing the installation correctly.

    • https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/4Y8U142036 andy


      I live in the mountains of East TN, and not the best sun in the world ( You familiar with the Smoky Mtns ? It ain’t smoke…it’s fog, and frequently ), AND I have the disadvantage of a high east and west ridge that limit my sun hours.

      But even with that, with a 6kw system, last year I produced 7,333kw/hrs, or about 600kw/hrs/month. That’s about 2/3 of what the average house in the US uses. ( 900kw/hrs )

      Late December, I added another array of 2550w, using grid tie only Enphase micro inverters ( my other 6kw uses Outback inverters with battery backup ),

      and I expect next year to end up in the 10,oookw/hr range.

  • http://www.calcentral.com/~malewis Michael A. Lewis, PhD

    I live in a mobile home in a mobile home park. I use 35 KWH of electricity per month year round. I heat with passive solar and wood stove backup, fueled by wood collected in neighboring tree stands.

    Installing solar panels makes no sense, in energy or economics. Conservation has reduced my energy needs to where PV is uneconomical. I could never pay back the costs of solar panels in their useful lifetime.

    • John Robb


      That’s great, and that type of approach does have it’s strengths. However, an aesthetic lifestyle isn’t something that appeals to most people now, or historically.

      That’s particularly true if you want to make your home productive. See the comment from Kunkmeister and his hopes to install a CNC mill for light manufacturing in his home workspace.

      Fortunately, installing solar panels now works for most of us in terms of energy and economics.


    • Vertis Bream

      Michael, For less than $1000; you could install a PV module(s) and micro inverter to delete the 35 KWH mo that you are paying for. You don’t consider that economic sense? I’m still using modules that I installed in 1984. They were blems with no warranty and they are still outputting 85-90% (less in summer/higher in winter) of rated power. If you don’t want to depend on the grid; add a charge contoller and small battery bank of deep cycling batteries for less than another $1000. In my book, you of all people should take advantage of the solar option. You’ve cut your cost to a fraction of the conventionals.

    • https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/4Y8U142036 andy


      Using only 35kw/hrs/month is EXTREMELY low. You must also be using gas for water heating, cooking, going to a laundry mat, and so on…..as a few lights and a small fridge would use that in a month. So you are either living VERY simply, or there are energy costs you are not considering in your electric costs.

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