For More Solar Energy, Occupy Rooftops
"Anyone, anywhere can start a community solar project to create jobs and clean energy in their community."
Occupy Wall Street protesters may have been kicked out of Zuccotti Park, but the movement has inspired efforts around the country to fight back against economic injustice. One such effort is planned for this weekend, when communities who want to increase the prevalence of solar power can Occupy Rooftops.
The organization behind Occupy Rooftops, Solar Mosaic, is trying to revolutionize how communities fund solar. The idea of Sunday’s event is to show that “anyone, anywhere can start a community solar project to create jobs and clean energy in their community,” says Lisa Curtis, Solar Mosaic’s communications manager. Solar Mosaic helps communities fund solar projects, which are often unaffordable for organizations on tight budgets, by appealing for crowdsourced investments of $100. For Occupy Rooftops, the group has recruited partners including climate campaigners 350.org, solar provider Sungevity, and environmental powerhouses like the Sierra Club.
Participating is easy: First, find a community building—a school, recreation center, nonprofit, or place of worship—whose roof could house solar panels. Gather a group of community members willing to support and fight for the project. Take a picture of the group with the building. Then share it to show politicians across the country how many Americans want solar energy now. (Physically occupying the rooftop is not a requirement, but at least a few people are planning on it.)
Solar Mosaic also has resources available for community groups to take their Occupy projects further. A Community Solar Guide takes groups through the process step-by-step. Sungevity, which normally sticks to residential projects, has agreed to assess community buildings’ solar potential by satellite. Solar Mosaic may reward some groups with $1,000 planning grants for their solar projects.
Occupy Rooftops started out as Community Solar Day, which was designed to assist budding solar projects in communities where Solar Mosaic doesn't have a presence. Organizers started serious planning just as the Occupy movement was growing, and realized that their goals lined up. “It’s no coincidence that the financial industry and the fossil-fuel industry are very intertwined, and together are creating our dependence on fossil fuels,” Curtis says. “What we want to do is use this Occupy momentum and focus on on-the-ground solutions, what we can do right now, without waiting for politicians.”
One inspiring aspect of the Occupy Rooftops movement is that its major demand is addressed to communities, rather than individuals in power. If you want solar energy, organizers say, take steps to get it. Rather than asking for what your community needs, make it happen.