Peer-to-peer solar leasing startup Sun Exchange announces African expansion in Zimbabwe
South African peer-to-peer solar leasing startup Sun Exchange marked its official expansion into sub-Saharan Africa with the first of three crowdsales for a multiphase, 1.9 megawatt (MW) solar-plus-storage project for Nhimbe Fresh, a premier exporter of fresh produce located in Marondera, Zimbabwe. This will be the largest Sun Exchange solar installation to date and the first outside South Africa.
The 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 percent per year and carbon emissions by more than one million kilograms per year.
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 3.9 MWh of battery capacity, enabling Nhimbe Fresh to continuously operate on solar energy alone, alleviating the burden of grid outages for Nhimbe and maximising earnings and CO2 reductions for our members.
- First USD-pegged, fixed lease price project: To mitigate risk of currency fluctuations, solar cells will be leased to Nhimbe Fresh at USD-pegged fixed price, with a forecast internal rate of return (IRR) of 16.71 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 outgrower 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.
Edwin Masimba Moyo, Chairman and Shareholder, Nhimbe Fresh: “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.”
Abraham Cambridge, CEO and Founder, Sun Exchange: “Agriculture accounts for approximately 23 percent 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.”
Davies Musoso, Head of Alternative Investments, Old Mutual Investment Group Zimbabwe: “Nhimbe Fresh stands out as a leader and model of sustainability and resilience, having built a thriving and reputable agriculture business by taking a conscientious, climate- and community-smart approach.”