Founded by Abraham Cambridge and co-founder Larry Temlock in 2016, The Sun Exchange (Sunex) is an innovative company seeking to use bitcoin as a vehicle to enhance access to solar energy throughout South Africa. Sunex allows investors to purchase solar cells, before distributing returns on power generation in the form of bitcoin or South African Rand.
The Sun Exchange Lets Members Purchase Solar Cells and Distributes Profits as Either Bitcoin or Fiat Currency
Investors can purchase solar cells using either bitcoin or South African Rand. Sunex believes that their project will invite new investors into the cryptocurrency space, anticipating that the tangibility of having “an actual physical and valuable, solar asset” will entice prospective investors who are inexperienced with bitcoin.
Sunex allows its customers to purchase individual solar cells rather than entire panels (a solar panel usually comprises 60 solar cells) in order to facilitate investment from individuals with little capital. Sunex rents the solar cells to a designated infrastructure project, and repatriates rent incurred through the consumption of power back to the owners of the solar cells. Each solar cell is given a unique reference number, allowing investors to geographically locate and inspect their solar cells.
Sunex Has Facilitated the Financing and Development of Several Solar Infrastructure Projects in South Africa
Once a project has agreed to partner with The Sun Exchange, financing for the required solar infrastructures for the project is raised through a crowdsale, with the solar infrastructure being purchased and installed once all of the cells required to power the project have been sold to investors. Currently, Sunex has successfully facilitated the funding of solar infrastructure that powers the Knysna Elephant Park, CROW Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, and The Stellenbosch Waldorf School. Sunex is currently conducting a crowdsale to develop a 100-kilowatt solar micro-grid for the rural village of Ha Makebe in Lesotho.
Since launching in March 2016, Sunex has received several awards for their work, including Best Blockchain and Bitcoin Business in Africa 2016, and the 2017 Global Blockchain Challenge in Dubai. The company describes its service as offering its customers “a bitcoin income with substance”, and reports that 75% of its members that hire the cells using South African Rand have requested for their returns to be paid in bitcoin.
Sunex Believes That Solar Power and Bitcoin Technology Are “Very Similar”
Sunex sees the pairing of cryptocurrency and solar technology as fitting due to both technologies being “very similar… on a philosophical and practical level. Solar energy is a decentralized and democratic form of energy – anyone can choose to go solar. Bitcoin is a decentralized and democratic form of money – anyone can choose to create their own money and spend it in any country.” Ultimately, Sunex believes that “digital currenc[ies] and solar are both radically liberating technologies that are going to be the foundation of the 21st-century economies.”, adding that “as long as we are still relying on fossil fuels and fiat currencies we are still stuck in the 19th century.”
Sunex believes that cryptocurrency will be a driving force upon the future African economy. Although the company concedes that in order for bitcoin to attain mass adoption throughout the continent “very affordable or free mobile internet services would be required in rural areas”, Sunex believes that many of the services, efficiency, and savings that cryptocurrency is driving greater adoption through the African continent. “Cross-border remittance in Africa and general commerce is still very cash-based and this is expensive and risky. Digital currency offers an immediately accessible and very low-cost peer to peer payments system that is already serving the whole continent (and [the] planet) whilst politicians still debate about how to create a pan-African single currency. The demand for bitcoin is very high in Africa. You can tell this by looking at the prices it is going for on the digital currency exchanges.”
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