Defense

Crowdfunding Fuels Military Conversion to Solar Power

The U.S. Army's solar array at White Sands, New Mexico

The U.S. Army's solar array at White Sands, New Mexico // U.S. Army/AP

The US military has ambitious plans—$7 billion worth—to install renewable energy at bases and other facilities across the nation. American taxpayers, of course, are footing the bill. But now they can choose to put their money into a military solar project and make a return, thanks to the crowdfunding craze.

Mosaic, a California startup that earlier this year began letting ordinary investors put in as little as $25 to help finance commercial rooftop photovoltaic arrays, today announced its first military-related project, a 12.3-megawatt (MW) installation that will put 55,189 solar panels on housing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The panels will be installed on 547 homes and are expected to supply 30% of their electricity demand.
The deal is significant on two fronts. Military bases represent a huge market that will help drive down the cost of solar energy through economies of scale. Silicon Valley’s SolarCity, for instance, scored a $1 billion deal in 2011 to finance and install 371 MW of photovoltaic panels on military housing in 30 states. Second, the deal marks a new way to finance solar energy. As lucrative US tax breaks for solar and wind projects fall from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016, they will become less attractive to big banks and corporate investors currently bankrolling commercial and residential solar projects.
Enter the mom-and-pop investor.

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