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Harness thousands of MIT alumni to offer a massive group discount on solar. Provide real-time measurements, donate some cost savings to MIT



Background and barriers: The costs of solar has significantly decreased over the last several decades. It is nearly at the cusp of price parity with traditional fuel sources; and in some regions it is already there. The barriers are no longer technology or cost, but lack of awareness and time are still holding people and companies from purchasing solar.

Solution: Administer a campaign through the alumni office, similar in size to the Institute's funding campaigns, to coordinate a group purchase of solar (for the MIT community's homes and offices). Include an energy monitoring device with each new installation to provide anonymous usage data to the MIT community. That data can inform future MIT research and aggregate the total carbon emissions saved. Also, allow participants to automatically donate to MIT a portion of the cost savings associated with the energy saved.

Benefits: Coordinating an alumni solar campaign will:

  1. Raise engagement among the MIT alumni community.
  2. Enable a group purchasing discount, further lowering the costs and providing the final kick for alumni to go solar. 
  3. True to MIT's culture, the campaign will integrate real-time energy generation and consumption measurement technologies to aggregate our impact; and provide valuable data that will enable research on solar performance in different regions, weather conditions, installation sizes, use conditions, etc.
  4. Raise automatic and recurring donations for MIT by linking a portion of the cost savings (associated with the solar installations) to automatic contributions to the Institute.

What actions do you propose?

Participation: Alumni will participate in the MIT solar campaign by committing to installing solar on their home rooftops and/or offices. In return, they will get access to a group purchasing discount and real-time measurement tools provided by the Institute (via a third-party provider). 

Impact: This campaign will have three major impacts on climate change:

  1. Direct impact through the reduction in GHG emissions associated with solar generation. 
  2. Indirect impact by enabling research on distributed solar generation through the data obtained by the solar installations.
  3. Indirect impact by raising awareness of the costs and benefits of solar, plus the alumni ethos of tinkering with technologies to make them better. With solar panels in the hands of thousands of MIT alumni, the alumni will most certainly innovate and improve upon them.


Implementation: MIT can implement the campaign through the MITEI, Environment Initiative, MIT Sloan, and other relevant departments. It can solicit a competitive bid from a third-party, nationwide solar installer. And for organizational resources, it can use a combination of faculty, alumni volunteers, and students. The solar campaign can learn from the Institute's donor fundraising campaigns, which reach thousands of MIT alumni and raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

And finally, it can link a portion of the energy cost savings that benefit the participants directly to donations (for example, if you save 10% off your home energy costs, you can choose to automatically contribute half of that savings to MIT).