So a year ago, I chanced on this diary about a company called Mosaic that is offering small investors - at least in some states - the opportunity to invest in solar projects. (I have no stake in this myself, other than as a small investor.) I had some money around that was not committed to anything and there seemed to be no opportunities around for fixed income investments with any meaningful return - money market funds and bank CDs paying essentially zero - so I decided to take a small flyer on it. I promised to come back with an update and here it is.
I liked the idea of investing in solar - We already had an electric car (Nissan Leaf) and a solar array on our house producing 100% of our home power needs - and this seemed like a nice opportunity to do modestly well while doing a little bit of good. Mosaic provides finance for fairly large scale, mostly roof-top solar projects. Most of them seem to be on buildings owned by government agencies or non-profits - schools, military housing, low-income housing projects, etc. The investors are repaid from the yield on the projects, as I understand it.
The short story is: It has, so far, worked as advertised. I invested $1,000. A year later my investment has grown at pretty much the advertised rate - an average of 4.56% on 4 projects in which I am invested. I have chosen to leave the gains in and invest them in new projects - you can invest in increments as small as $25. I suppose it would be a useful test to withdraw some money, just to make sure it's really real, but I haven't chosen to do that - my plan at this point is to just continue plowing it back in. So, nothing earthshaking, but seems to be a nice way to make a moderate return by supporting a good thing.
I'll update again in another year or two.