Sun Exchange, a provider of comprehensive solar power and energy storage solutions in South Africa, is entering a new strategic phase. Building on nine years of expertise and a solid reputation, the company is now shifting its focus entirely to full-service commercial solar power and energy storage project development.
Under the leadership of newly appointed CEO Saul Wainwright, Sun Exchange will fund all its projects through a growing global network of trusted corporate and institutional funders. This strategic shift will enable the company to continue serving its core sectors, including schools, retirement homes, non-profit organisations, and agriculture, while also expanding into larger commercial and industrial projects.
The company’s corporate and institutional funder programme has gained incredible momentum since its launch, signalling a promising path forward for Sun Exchange to continue making an impact with solar power.
However, this strategic pivot is not without its challenges and mixed emotions. The company is moving away from its original crowdsale-based model, which has been a cornerstone of Sun Exchange since its inception. This model allowed the company to build a global community of solar power supporters and establish itself as an innovative industry leader. Unfortunately, the crowdsale model is no longer a viable business model for Sun Exchange.
Overcoming Challenges Amid the Energy Crisis
Despite the slower traction of crowdsales, 2023 was Sun Exchange’s most successful year to date. The company funded projects worth R92 million, with corporate and institutional funders contributing R76 million (82%) – a 114% year-on-year growth compared to 2022.
In December, Sun Exchange announced the completion of the largest school solar project in the Western Cape, the 470 kW solar plus 700 kWh storage HTS Drostdy solar project in Worcester, South Africa. The company is currently installing its largest project across all sectors, a 544 kW solar plus 1,415 kWh storage project powering Vaandrigsdrift, a commercial dairy farm in Swellendam, South Africa.
Since introducing its institutional funder programme at the end of 2022, Sun Exchange has partnered with Absa, Allotrope Partners, Cars.co.za, CVE, Energea, Hannover Re, and Jaltech to fund solar projects, and this list continues to grow.
However, the growth in funding from institutions stands in stark contrast to the decline in crowdsale demand over the last two years, which we believe is due to a complex confluence of internal and external factors. Simultaneously, the unprecedented levels of load shedding in South Africa since mid 2021 have led to a spike in demand for battery-integrated solar projects from our end users. Compared to the standalone solar PV projects Sun Exchange focused on in the early years, storage-integrated projects require significantly higher capital expenditure and are difficult and slow to fund via crowdsales, leading to disruptions in development timelines and increased costs. Institutional and corporate funders, on the other hand, are able to fund entire projects at once in a defined amount of time.
The way forward
We have always thought of Sun Exchange as a collective and that hasn’t changed. What we’ve achieved to date has only been possible through the collaborative efforts of an inspired community coming together to pursue a shared vision of a future powered by sustainable energy. That includes our staff, solar cell owners, solar customers, development and installation partners, investors and, most recently, institutional funders. Our utmost priority at this time is to ensure the sustainability of Sun Exchange and the best possible outcome for all stakeholders.
“Sun Exchange is a recognised and trusted solar leader, having deployed solar and storage projects for more than 90 organisations across sectors — one of the largest fleets of commercial projects in South Africa,” said Wainwright.
“This track record underscores the strength of our world-class project development capabilities, funder network and unparalleled commitment to ensuring our customers’ solar power journey is seamless and rewarding.
“With a sharp focus on connecting a growing network of trusted funders with promising solar and storage project opportunities, we’re poised to continue growing our impact well into the future. We’re deeply grateful for the global community who have believed in Sun Exchange from the start. We wouldn’t be where we are without you. We look forward to the next chapter on our journey to empower South Africa’s future with clean, reliable energy.”