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Startups Set to Revolutionize Clean Energy with Off-Grid, Community Solar Models

Two startups are advancing their solar power solutions in big ways: Arcadia Power, an online renewable energy company, has launched the first nationwide community solar program in the United States; and solar lighting and power systems provider d.light has secured a total of $30 million in funding this year for off-grid solar.


Despite that more than three-quarters of Americans believe the adoption of renewable energy should be sped up, less than 1 percent of Americans today have rooftop solar systems due to issues around their roof, ownership, and what state they live in. Arcadia Power is hoping to change that.

The company’s community solar platform promises to give people across the U.S. the opportunity to support solar energy and get savings on their bills, no matter where they live. Arcadia Power’s platform connects solar panel production from a remote site directly to a customer’s power bill, and doesn’t require any additional equipment or installation on a customer’s home. Arcadia Power says this makes it especially ideal for those who live in apartments, have shaded roofs, or don’t want to be locked down in a 20-year agreement.

“We’re making solar savings inclusive rather than exclusive,” said Kiran Bhatraju, Founder and CEO of Arcadia Power. “Our product cuts through many of the barriers that have held solar power back for so many years. It’s modern, portable, reduces long-term energy costs, and is available to anyone that pays a power bill.”

Customers pay an upfront “Solar Subscription Fee” and can choose from a range of term lengths and number of panels, from as little as a single panel to enough to fully offset their local utility charges. Every month as their panels produce energy, it's sold to a host or into the local power market, and customers receive bill credits directly on their utility bills. Arcadia’s software also allows customers to see their panels production in real-time and purchase panels across multiple projects. Current available projects include solar installations in California, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C., but the service is available to customers in all 50 states. Customers are also able to take their savings from utility to utility as they move homes thanks to the software’s integration with over 100 utility billing systems nationwide.


Meanwhile, coming off a recent $22.5 million Series D funding round, d.light’s momentum continued as it secured $7.5 million in debt financing from impact investment manager Developing World Markets at the end of October.

d.light’s Series D round of funding consisted of $15 million in equity, $2.5 million in debt and over $5 million in grants. With this latest round of debt financing, d.light expects to ramp up sales for its existing solar lantern and home system solutions, as well as bring new products to market, including solar-powered appliances, such as TVs.

“This new funding better enables us to bring safe and affordable solar home systems to families without a reliable grid connection. We’re grateful for the support of Developing World Markets,” said d.light CEO Ned Tozun. “Their confidence in us is a testament to the hard work of our global team and our many partners. It’s an honor to collaborate with so many people who care about this important work.”

d.light has a large market share in emerging markets, selling hundred of thousands of units per month. The company currently operates five distribution hubs in East Africa, West Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and the United States. In June, the company announced it was going to license its pay-as-you-go financing technology to partners and distributors around the globe to help reach more of the 2.3 billion people worldwide without reliable access to power.

At the announcement of the Series D funding in late September, d.light CFO Kamal Lath explained that “consumer financing for solar home systems makes the technology significantly more affordable for [d.light’s] customers,” adding that the Series D funding “will enable more families and business owners to enjoy access to the affordable, clean and reliable solar energy solutions they need to improve their quality of life.”

As of August 2016, d.light has impacted 65 million people with its solar lighting and home systems, putting it on track for achieving its goal of empowering 100 million lives by 2020. The company says it has helped base-of-the-pyramid families save $5.2 billion in energy expenses and create 34 billion additional hours of productivity for work and study, while its products have offset 23 million tons of carbon dioxide and generated 127 GWH from renewable energy sources.

“We believe that capital markets can create positive economic and social change, and that d.light can provide the kind of financial and social returns we seek from our investments,” said Peter Johnson, a Managing Partner of Developing World Markets. “We’re proud to support d.light’s mission to bring safe and affordable solar energy solutions to the more than two billion people without reliable access to energy.”

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