SolarAid, a U.K.-based not-for-profit organization, and SunFunder, a U.S.-based crowdfunding website, have launched an innovative financing partnership to bring solar power to over 20,000 people who live off the grid in Eastern Zambia.
Based in London, SolarAid is an international development charity that promotes the use of solar energy to help reduce global poverty and climate change. San Francisco-based SunFunder is a new funding platform that, for the first time, gives individual investors the opportunity to invest in off-grid, high-quality solar projects around the world.
This year, SunFunder will provide up to $50,000 in loans to SolarAid through its social enterprise, SunnyMoney—a network of associated local dealers that ensures that local residents will have access to the lighting products, as well as ongoing maintenance and advisory services.
The first loan, for $10,000, will finance the purchase of 781 solar-powered lights. These lights will be sold to Zambian families who currently live without power. The money for this loan will be raised through SunFunder’s crowdfunding platform, which allows anyone to invest money into the project in amounts starting at $25. Two days after the project’s launch this week, it already had raised on the SunFund site, $1,550—$25 at a time.
Richard Turner, director of Fundraising for SolarAid is excited about the potential. “Families in Africa are prepared to buy solar lights to replace kerosene and candles. These brilliant little lights can transform the lives of a family by reducing the amount they spend on kerosene, and providing a safe clean light to use. We just need the capital to buy these magical lights and get them to remote areas. Sunfunder can help make that happen and we are delighted to be partnering with this amazing initiative”.
"This partnership has the potential to make clean affordable solar energy a reality where it is needed the most,” said Ryan Levinson, CEO and founder of SunFunder.
Investors who place money into a project are repaid over a period of six months to two years—earning back their principal plus interest-based “Impact Points,” which can be used to reinvest in new projects. Investors also are able to track their project’s performance and impact.
The project that launches now with SolarAid will provide solar-powered lights to families in the Chadiza district of Eastern Zambia using distribution through local schools. Working through schools enables SolarAid to overcome the trust barrier typically faced when introducing a new technology such as solar lights. All of the target schools in the Chadiza zone of the Eastern Province are remote and not connected to the electric grid, instead relying on kerosene lanterns and candles for light.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman