Published on February 3rd, 2014 | by Derek Markham3
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.