Solar for the 75%

NOTE: This is a guest post from Rosana Francescato, a blogger for Mosaic, an online marketplace for investing in solar.

By definition, most of us are in the 99%. Some of us may even be in that mythical 47%. But there’s another group that many of us are in, without even being aware of it: the 75%. That’s the estimated number of people who can’t get solar on their roof.

While leases are helping far more people go solar than before, 75% of us are still left out of the equation. We may have shaded roofs, rent our homes or live in multi-unit buildings. And these are just a few of the reasons preventing so many of us from going solar.

But don’t despair! There’s hope for the 75%, and plenty of it. The boom happening right now in community solar is making it possible for almost anyone to benefit from solar power. At a recent Community Solar Forum put on by Solar Sonoma County, the 75% became a theme as we learned about some of the options:

- Community Choice Energy: Programs like Sonoma Clean Power and CleanPowerSF are enabling utility customers in some areas to buy their power from renewable sources.
Solar Gardens: Some states have laws that allow virtual net metering, which lets utility customers subscribe to solar power from an installation not on their own roof.
- CLEAN programs, or feed-in tariffs: By promoting these programs, the Clean Coalition is working toward the goal for 2020 of 80% of all new electricity generation in the United States coming from renewable energy sources.
- Co-ops: Energy co-ops like the San Francisco Energy Cooperative allow anyone to participate in solar for as little as $50. They hope to be a model for other co-ops around the country.

The speakers at the forum all had slightly different perspectives, and they were focused on different ways to bring solar to communities. But they all shared the goal of helping as many people as possible to participate in renewable energy — that is, reaching the 75%.

All of these ways to bring solar to the 75% are important and highly effective — and even affordable. Models like community choice energy, solar gardens and CLEAN programs generally result in savings, especially over time. They bring a slew of other benefits, like cleaner air, local jobs, and increased national security. So it’s crucial to support these efforts. Still, while a lot is happening already, some of these programs can take years to implement, and they aren’t yet available everywhere.

In the meantime, how do we get the word out to the 75% that there are options for them — for us — now?

For most people, that will mean an appeal to their pocketbook. Those with an active interest in supporting solar for altruistic reasons are a minority. But most people like the idea of saving money or getting a good return on an investment. If they can do good at the same time, that’s a nice benefit.

And now there are more ways to invest in solar and do well while doing good. Energy co-ops can already provide a return on small investments, and the JOBS Act should allow for larger investments in the near future. Other organizations use crowdfunding models where people can move from recouping their investment to receiving a return on that investment. For example, Mosaic allows people to invest in solar projects and get paid back from the clean energy produced.

There’s more coming, so stay tuned! Before long, we’ll have solar for the 75%. To learn more about community solar, check out the following:

- Sign up to be notified when Mosaic launches a new way to crowdfund solar for communities at
- Check out sites on solar gardens, community choice and CLEAN programs, and community power to see how you can support their efforts and what you can do in your community.


Related Stories:

Biofuel-Powered Car One Step Closer to Reality

3 Things Congress Can Do to Support Clean Energy

America’s New Mandate on Climate Change


Photo via Thinkstock


Joel Romp
Joel R4 years ago

great article this has always been a dream to own a house and get it off the grid and be independently sustainable (for the most part)

Stella Gamboni
Stella Gamboni5 years ago

I do live in a house that is too shaded by neighbors trees to consider solar panels but my utility has always offered the option to pay a few cents more per kwh to buy electricity supplied by clean energy sources (usually solar and hydroelectric). I've just never trusted that they actually do that.

Arild Warud


Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago


nick a.
Nico Smart5 years ago

Hello Heidi,

I don't think I would try to build my own panels, as cheap as they are now. The commercial panels use tempered glass and sometimes low-iron tempered, which is pretty expensive to order one or two pieces of. Plus, they are sealed and warrantied for 25-50 years to produce 80% of rated power. I read Home Power magazine and they have articles of tests on 1970s panels that still produce more than that, even their full rated power!

Individual panels won't have batteries built in, but some now come with micro-inverters on each panel that put out 120VAC or 240VAC for easy wiring. Since they don't all connect to a single inverter (usually life span of about 15 years), shading or dirt is not a big issue and if one panel goes down the others keep working.

A lot of the installed cost is labor. While you need an electrician or someone who knows what they are doing, a homeowner can do this project. Do research and plan it out.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey5 years ago

The comments made by Nick A.

Are extremely important to remember. For many the idea of solar means having power if the commercial power goes down. Without a battery backup(there are solar panels that have this feature, but you must look for it) and inverter, your power will be down as well.

Another thing, the real reason most of us don't use solar is the exorbitant cost.
The fact is the actual parts used for the solar panel don't cost more than 200.00 dollars in completion!

There are books online that tell you how to build your own that really works from parts you can get at your local hardware store. One guy (he was a building contractor) made his in about 2 days and now gets about a 25 dollar check from the power company(they have to buy back any extra power generated) monthly.

The total cost for his working project was 134.00. I wanted power for when the power goes down. In his story, the power went out in the middle of winter and his baby and other small child were freezing for 3 days. So he made his decision final.

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

Thank you very important issues raised here!

Christine Stewart
Christine S5 years ago

All houses and shops/malls should have solar panels to help generate electricity, and tubular skylights to help reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day!

Theodore S.
Theodore Shayne5 years ago

Wait until nano and solar merge and have children.