The investment world is, well, truly a mess. To raise funds in the truly open market, companies have to have huge (HUGE) amounts of resources invested in lawyers, paperwork, and otherwise. This is important to reduce the chance for outright fraud (pyramid schemes) like in the 1000s of 'make a million off this penny stock' emails that populate my spam folder. In the interim, prior to that level of investment, businesses can raise funds from 'accredited investors' -- essentially people with a net worth of at least $1 million -- who should be able to afford a 100% loss in their investments. Those early investors, however, often can make 20, 30, 40+% per year on these early-stage investments. E.g., the rich have paths to get richer that simply aren't available for the rest of society. And, honestly, these restrictions on investing can make it hard for decent businesses seeking triple bottom line results (good for people, good for planet, and with profits) to get money early at reasonable rates.
Today, a true triple bottom line company offers an opportunity that is available solely to accredited investors -- that is, unless you live in California or New York. If you are a Californian or New Yorker, you can invest in solar electricity systems for as little as $25 a pop ... Live in an apartment or a rented home or simply without the $10,000s required for a solar system on your roof, this is a path to help put up solar power systems as part of the path to a renewable energy future not through "donations" by becoming a solar power system owner as part of a larger community.
[UPDATE: What is cool about this and makes it interesting, is that this company is trying to create path for 'ordinary' people to:
- Help put up and have partial ownership of solar power systems,
- That will go (it seems) on community facilities (such as low-income housing communities)
- Which will provide savings for those communities, while
- reducing pollution loads, and
- providing a reasonable return for those individual investors
Can't (afford to) put solar on your own home but want (for any number of reasons) to be able to say that you 'own' / 'help put up' / 'invest in' solar power and have some $s (as low as $25 in NY and CA), this might provide you a path to ...]
For example, a project in Salinas, CA,
Nestled among the mountains of Salinas, California, this affordable housing complex is home to over 120 low-income seniors. Rehabilitated from an antiquated motel into elegant, energy-efficient and affordable apartments, this community was designed with sustainability in mind from the very beginning. Located close to public transit, this community is a vibrant and eco-friendly home for Salinas’s rising population of low-income seniors. This solar project is estimated to produce the carbon equivalent of recycling 27 tons of waste instead of sending it to the landfill.This project is, according to Solar Mosaic, going to return 4.5% per year to investors over a 96 month period at a time when few bank (savings) accounts are returning more than 0.5% and the 10-year Treasury Bond is at 1.90%. [Although, as Johnny Wurster notes, Corporate AAA bonds do have returns in the 4% range -- however, they're not normally available for a $25 investor ...]
TO BE CLEAR -- while I find the Solar Mosaic model exciting, love the concept of crowd-sourcing solar (and other renewable energy and energy efficiency) projects, and find the projects that I've glanced at appealing, I have NOT closely examined the projects and I am NOT giving financial advice here. Please make sure to take a real look at the prospectus for these projects, especially if you are thinking about investing what you consider to be a significant amount of money which you cannot afford to lose.
[ADDITION -- post seeing Troubadour's comment -- I have zero financial engagement with Solar Mosaic (other than, I think, donating some huge sum, like $10, to them as they started up (can't recall if I did or didn't ...). I find the idea/model of crowd-sourcing for putting up solar in affordable housing in a way that will save those communities money, reduce pollution, create jobs, and give the investors some return on their investment quite attractive and appealing -- even as I caution, as above, about looking closely and making your own decisions. Note -- I wrote this because I have tremendous respect for one of the key Solar Mosaic players, Billy Parish.]