Investors cash in on crowdfunded solar project

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 31 Mar 2023
Photograph by SunCash.
Photograph by SunCash.

The first group of investors in the SunCash solar power crowdfunding initiative cashed in thousands of rands in return on investment this week, from reselling their solar power cells to buyers.

SunCash says on Wednesday it facilitated the first quarterly pay-out to 126 solar power investors who crowdfunded 2 865 solar cells on the rooftop of Delmas High School in Mpumalanga, when the project first launched early this year.

In January, blockchain start-up Momint announced its new SunCash crowdfunding offering, which aims to help ease SA’s energy crisis by allowing anyone to invest in solar power and resell it to institutions.

It allows people living in Limpopo, Western Cape and Mpumalanga to purchase solar cells – a constituent part of solar panels – from as little as R150 through the SunCash website.

The solar cells are then installed by trusted solar panel partners at an institution of their choice, such as a school, business, hospital or factory, which is in need of solar power.

Investors lease their solar cells purchased via SunCash to the institution, through the use of a standard power purchase agreement to buy the solar power.

In return, solar cell investors earn an estimated 12% return per annum (paid out on a quarterly basis by SunCash in rands), with the first collective pay-out this week amounting to $774 (R14 000). By December, the investors would have made a combined estimate of over $3 000 (R54 000).

“We are thrilled by the fact that South Africans have heeded our call to crowdfund solar projects for local schools and residential buildings,” says Ahren Posthumus, CEO of Momint and spokesperson for the SunCash Initiative.

“We were able to install and crowdfund the rooftop solar within a month of launching this project earlier this year − meaning Delmas High School in Mpumalanga is now fully-insulated against the impact of load-shedding, improving the quality of education and learning in the school.”

Momint was initially launched as a non-fungible tokens marketplace, and has since expanded its business model to allow individuals to purchase solar cells and have them power businesses and communities in the sunniest locations on earth.

According to Posthumus, the solar project concept aims to make investment in solar power accessible to all South Africans, in order to decrease the country’s dependence on Eskom over the next 10 to 20 years.

Delmas High School in Mpumalanga.
Delmas High School in Mpumalanga.

The solar power crowdfunding business model is gaining popularity as SA’s power crisis continues to escalate, with other companies, such as local start-up The Sun Exchange, also offering a crowdfunded service from its platform.

The City of Cape Town is working on a similar wide-scale concept, with the imminent cash-for-power plan, which will see it sell excess electricity generated by residents and businesses for cash.

The initiative will enable the sale of excess power by homes and businesses, with small-scale embedded generation, to contribute to Cape Town’s goal of load-shedding protection within three years, according to local government.

The trend has taken countries like the US and Germany by storm, with experts warning that if it’s not implemented correctly, it could result in wasted energy and overburdened systems.

In its latest move, the SunCash initiative says it aims to empower gender-based violence (GBV) safe houses by crowdfunding their transition to renewable energy.

It has partnered with Cape Town-based non-profit Philisa Abafazi Bethu, to help ensure solar installations for GBV safe houses are made possible in the Western Cape. Other partnerships with safe houses in the province are in the pipeline, it says.

Solar cell buyers who missed out on the opportunity to crowdfund the high school in Mpumalanga can now drive the latest impact investment project by the SunCash Initiative, by purchasing tokenised solar cells for safe houses via its website.

“We encourage South Africans to invest in solar energy and renewable power through SunCash. Investors earn a passive income from it and help decrease the load on Eskom. Ideally, with enough support, SunCash’s crowdfunding model will help deliver reliable, renewable power and clean energy to all South African institutions,” concludes Posthumus.