To date, people have used crowdfunding to help albums, books, and even that most British of institutions, a fish and chip restaurant, get off the ground.
But in the energy sector, crowdfunding is increasingly being used as an alternative way to finance renewable energy projects, enabling smaller companies to develop renewable projects with a degree of independence that is not usually seen with bank financing or investment by a large corporation.
The pace of this change is gaining momentum. In the UK, funding site Abundance Generation was launched in 2011, and allows people to invest in renewable energy projects. Since its launch, over 1,000 people have invested more than £5 million ($8.4 million) in 'ethical and sustainable energy projects'.
(Read more: No one and nowhere immune to climate change: UN)
Projects including a commercial scale solar farm in Kent and a wind turbine project in Gloucestershire have benefited from Abundance funds. The amount of money raised for successfully funded projects ranges from £216,000 to £1.4 million.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the investment platform Mosaic has enabled people to directly invest $5.6 million in, "high quality solar projects."
Florida-based Crowd Energy have developed the Ocean Energy Turbine, which it claims "is the first renewable energy system designed to effectively harness ocean currents on a commercial scale."
(Read more: World's biggest crowdfunding site goes global)
In order to continue their turbine's development by building a second prototype and test tank, followed by 'open ocean' testing with the aid of Florida Atlantic University, they have set up a Kickstarter page with the goal of raising $75,000.
"Three or four years ago, we wouldn't have been looking for funding through this route, we would have done it out of our own pockets," Phillip Janca, of Crowd Energy, told CNBC.com in a phone interview.