Sun Exchange, the world’s first peer-to-peer solar leasing platform, has announced its expansion into sub-Saharan Africa with the launch of the crowdsale for Phase 1 of a multiphase 1.9 megawatt (MW) solar-plus-storage project for Nhimbe Fresh, a premier exporter of fresh produce in Marondera, Zimbabwe. This will be the largest Sun Exchange solar installation to date and the first outside South Africa.
The announcement demonstrates swift progress towards sub-Saharan Africa expansion goals set forth in June, when Sun Exchange announced the close of a $4 million Series A funding round after securing a $3 million investment from ARCH Emerging Market Partners Limited’s Africa Renewable Power Fund (ARPF).
The multiphase solar and battery project will power Nhimbe Fresh packhouse and cold store facilities (phase 1), pump sites (phase 2), and Churchill Farm (phase 3). The introduction of continuous, reliable power, at a lower cost than running diesel generators, is forecast to reduce the Nhimbe Fresh facilities’ energy costs by more than 60% per year and carbon emissions by more than one million kilograms per year.
Edwin Masimba Moyo, Chairman and sole shareholder, Nhimbe Fresh, said, “At Nhimbe Fresh, we recognise and embrace our interdependence on our surrounding communities and the environment. Our vision is to pursue a purpose greater than ourselves and to pioneer new, profitable ways of doing business through sustainability and environmental responsibility. Going solar through Sun Exchange is a significant step towards that vision, minimising our energy costs and climate impact, while strengthening our resilience and business continuity by enabling us to continue operations during power outages.”
The solar project marks a number of other important firsts for Sun Exchange, including:
- First project with energy storage capacity: The three project sites will be integrated with a 3.9 MWh battery system, enabling Nhimbe Fresh to continuously operate on solar energy alone. This alleviates the burden of grid outages, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of US dollars (USD) a year in lost revenue and additional operating overheads.
- First USD-pegged, fixed lease price project: To mitigate risk of currency fluctuations, solar cells will be leased to Nhimbe Fresh at a USD-pegged fixed price, with a forecast internal rate of return (IRR) of 12.33% for solar cell owners, the highest of any Sun Exchange project to date.
- Working with United Exports, Czon and Global Fresh, Nhimbe Fresh exports blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, stone fruit, snap peas and snow peas to major international grocery retailers in the United Kingdom, European Union, United Arab Emirates and South Africa. In April 2019, the company floated a $2.9 million convertible five-year bond, which was fully subscribed by leading African asset manager, Old Mutual Investment Group.
Nhimbe Fresh maintains a strong focus on sustainability and uplifting surrounding communities. The company runs an out-grower scheme, working with 250 smallholder farmers who receive specialised training and support and gain vast access to export markets. The company also provides clinic and childcare facilities for employees, sports funding and participates in a programme to empower youth in agriculture.
Abraham Cambridge, CEO & Founder, Sun Exchange, said, “Agriculture accounts for approximately 23% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, yet this critical sector faces immense challenges including unreliable power supply, rising electricity costs, climate-induced drought and limited access to finance for clean energy. Sun Exchange directly addresses those challenges by facilitating access to extremely simple, affordable, reliable solar power.”
Through its online platform, Sun Exchange sells solar cells to its global community of more than 19,000 Sun Exchange members across 168 countries, and then leases the cells to schools, businesses and other organisations in sub-Saharan Africa. Solar cell owners offset their carbon footprint while earning a rental income stream from the clean electricity generated. In turn, businesses and organisations can go solar at no upfront cost, minimising their energy costs and climate impact.