Crowdfunding Site Provides Capital for High-Impact Solar Energy Projects


Lack of access to financing can keep many otherwise worthy solar energy projects from being built in poor and underserved areas, but a solar crowdfunding site is helping to connect individual investors with solar energy businesses and working to bring affordable solar energy to communities around the world.

In areas with limited to no access to reliable electricity, especially those with a lot of solar energy potential, the need for affordable renewable energy is great, but what’s lacking is the capital to build out these solar power projects. SunFunder has one solution, as their crowdfunding (or crowd investing) platform bridges the divide between the builders and the money necessary to make high-impact solar projects happen.

SunFunder, which allows individuals to invest as little as $10, partners with solar energy businesses and organizations that are already providing scalable and affordable solar solutions in underserved communities, and facilitates the fundraising and financing aspects of solar projects in these areas.

Crowdfunding solar energy deployment
Each solar project featured on the SunFunder platform is a partnership with one of these solar businesses. SunFunder conducts due diligence on each solar partner and works with them to post projects on the platform. Each project has a funding target, and you can invest as little as $10 to help reach this target amount. Once a project is fully funded, SunFunder facilitates low-cost financing to the solar partner to fund the implementation of the project.

Recoup and reinvest
During the financing term, as the solar partner receives payments from their customers (typically the people who directly benefit from solar), the partner makes repayments to SunFunder. SunFunder then repays investors, who earn back their principal investment and receive Impact Points. Both the principal repayment and Impact Points can then be used to reinvest in more projects. On the “My Impact” page on the platform, you’ll be able to track the financial performance of your investments as well as the social, environmental and economic impact of your projects.

SunFunder offers a number of features that can help to make projects and investments simpler and more transparent, including a dashboard with metrics on the amount of energy saved through funded projects, the amount of money invested, the impact of the investments, etc., a social sharing component, the option of creating a matching fund for added appeal to other investors, as well as the ability to use Facebook payments for some projects

The service doesn’t offer interest on investments, due to significant regulatory challenges (and the fact that the platform is open to anyone around the world), but instead allows investors to accumulate “Impact Points” that can be used to reinvest in other projects.

“100 Impact Points represents $1, but Impact Points cannot be converted into money and investors cannot withdraw Impact Points. However, just like the principal repayment that you receive, Impact Points can be used to reinvest in more solar projects and grow your impact. When you invest using Impact Points, 100% of the investment will be repaid with more Impact Points, which can be reinvested again, giving you an opportunity to grow your impact.” – SunFunder

According to Justmeans, in the 18 months of the company’s operation, $363,000 in loans have been made for off-grid solar projects, with an estimation of the reach of those projects at about 100,000 people.

Find out more about how you can support the growth of affordable solar energy projects in underserved off-grid communities around the world at SunFunder. If you own or run a solar company that fits SunFunder’s criteria and could use some debt financing to scale your business, you may want to look into the option of becoming a solar partner.

About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!
  • Lisa Oelke

    I would like to know if there is an opportunity for a new solar project in Tanzania to benefit from this type of crowdfunding and would appreciate some guidance? I work in the solar industry and volunteered at a not for profit orphanage in Tanzania in October of 2013. Upon my return, I started asking within my solar network if there was interest in participating in a 5-10 kWp Rooftop solar project. I have 5 people on board to offer their expertise in designing a solar system to meet the base load requirements of the 80 children and staff at the orphanage. We are in communication with local solar distributors/installers in Africa to determine the scope of product and service they can provide. For the project we will need to raise money for all materials at a rate of approx. $8 per watt, so for 10,000 watts, $80,000. The team that I will be heading up will travel to Tanzania to oversee the installation and commissioning of the solar system.
    I look forward to hearing back from you and appreciate the guidance.

    • Hi Lisa,

      That sounds like a great project you got going and I’m happy to hear that it’s coming to shape. Our partnerships are more long-term oriented and we typically do not enter into partnerships when it’s only a one-off project. You can learn more about our partnership criteria here:

      My best recommendation for you would be to try using crowdfunding platforms to raise money for your project. Bigger names like Kickstarter and Indiegogo may charge a pretty high fee, so I’d look into Crowdtilt and other platforms. Then I would promote aggressively within your personal and professional networks, and encourage others to do the same.

      Best of luck with your endeavor!

      Cindy Nawilis
      Community & Operations Lead, SunFunder

  • Quick update: a new project (our 19th to date!) has just been posted on our site. If you have any questions about how to use our platform to invest, reach out to us via social media or at!

    Cindy Nawilis
    Community & Operations Lead, SunFunder