If you’ve ever driven by a large solar array and wished you could be a part of bringing clean energy to your town, there’s now an easy way that can cost you as little as $50.
Raise Green’s online platform, Originator Engine. The program is a SaaS solution developed by Raise Green in partnership with IBM to help create opportunities for anyone to become an entrepreneur and funnel money and clean energy into local communities by providing anyone who wants to start their own solar energy business—or become an investor in one—with the tools and resources to do so.
Raise Green is “for people who are tired of waiting for the government, tired of waiting for businesses and want to create the world they want,” Raise Green Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Matt Moroney told Solar Magazine.
“Mobilizing finance for investment and innovation in low-carbon energy is a key challenge for climate change mitigation,” Authors Mariana Mazzucatoa and Gregor Semieniuk wrote in their paper “Financing renewable energy: Who is financing what and why it matters,” published on Science Direct.
The paper noted that venture capital funds, which typically have massive amounts of money to invest, have often avoided very early seed investments in renewable energy projects. The paper also found that the number of individual investors in renewable energy projects was so small it wasn’t even noteworthy, anyone who did invest individually had a great sum of wealth. Typical investors included institutional investors, banks, charities, energy firms, and state utilities.
Raise Green aims to fix this issue with crowdfunding.
The Business Of Raise Green
The company lays out four stages for its business model: Create, Fund, Build, and Run.
During the Create stage, Raise Green’s Originator Engine guides a project creator through corporate obstacles to help them turn the project idea into a real business. Next, is Funding. An originator uses Raise Green’s crowdfunding platform to raise funding for the project. Then, it’s time to Build. With the funds raised through Raise Green, the project can start coming to live. The originator will manage the project with guidance from Raise Green on construction and permitting applications. Finally, it’s time to Run the project. The originator oversees the ongoing project and the project starts benefiting the community with clean energy.
Typical routes to building clean energy projects have stalled across the country, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Raise Green feels their platform is the perfect way to help.
“There are so many clean energy projects not getting financed right now,” Moroney said. “A solar array on a community center in a low-income neighborhood, can’t raise $300,000, especially now. A traditional solar developer probably doesn’t want to, they’d rather invest in something with better credit. With Raise Green, someone in the community can be the developer, the community can fund the project, and the energy and dividends from the investment go back into the community.”
Raise Green caters to two groups: those who want to build clean energy projects and those who want to invest in them.
“People who want to do something about climate will be leading the charge,” in regards to investing, Moroney said. But the other side of the market is the originators or project creators. Currently, Raise Green has more than 60 in the pipeline, but they’re focusing on ten projects to bring to market this year. Those ten projects range from solar to energy efficiency projects such as AV charging. Moving forward, Raise Green’s platform will offer funding opportunities and blueprint plans for AV vehicle charging stations, solar arrays, agriculture, water projects, and microgrids.
To build a large solar array or large AV charging station, the developer must file dozens of paperwork with the local ordinance. Raise Green created a “business in a box” to allow this to become a replicable system on a large scale, therefore breaking down some barriers entrepreneurs face.
For a complex project such as a community solar array, if the community comes together and makes a marketing plan and legal documents to bring the project to life, there is no institutional knowledge to help guide them through the process. Raise Green created a template so other communities can make a copy.
“That’s how we are thinking about driving the project creation side. Make copies of projects that are already successful, complement the organic interest we are seeing from community activists to large community solar or standard developers,” Moroney said.
We’ll then extend this opportunity to anyone who wants to become a climate entrepreneur and create their own business through regulation crowdfunding.
In the past decade in the United States, there’s been a huge push for green jobs and training blue-collar or low-income workers to become solar installers. But these jobs are extremely physically demanding. Moroney sees Raise Green as a way for blue-collar workers to have a natural path and transition into a white-collar job by becoming developers.
Moroney touted Raise Green as a resource for anyone that’s been laid off during the Coronavirus Pandemic and wants to get back to work. Raise Green would provide the blueprint for anyone who is willing to create their own clean energy jobs.
“Projects with the most benefit often don’t get built, are the hardest to build, and take longest to build,” Moroney said. “Hopefully this tool allows someone from that community center to build it, create their own green job, manage it and make it come to life. And members from the community center and down the street and across the country can invest.”
Before Raise Green launched, Moroney and Raise Green CEO Franz Hochstrasser took their own prospective customer journey for two small solar developments in New Haven, CT. They use crowdfunding to fund the project, raising $82,000 in two offerings from 133 investors, with an average investment size of $300.
For the project, the duo put a $50 minimum investment requirement. Some investors went big and fueled $15,000 into the project. Others were students working on the project and invested the minimum. A major Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) fund in the region invested. Now, anyone who wants to launch a solar project in Connecticut can use the same legal documents as a guide and template.
Each offering will have different investment minimums and maximums, as well as restrictions and guidelines on cashing out.
Anyone with at least $50 can invest, and Moroney expects millennials to lead the charge. Raise Green’s website notes that 95 percent of millennials are interested in sustainable investing, and Raise Green plans to capitalize on that by giving millennials an outlet to invest.
“None of this was possible until 2016,” Moroney said. “That a retail investor can be joined by other investors in the same capital stack and it has truly blended capital through the regulation crowd.” comment