A 510 kW and 1 MWh solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage installation to power the packhouse and cold store facilities of Zimbabwean agricultural company Nhimbe Fresh has started generating electricity.
The $1.4-million project was funded through a crowd-sale completed by solar leasing platform Sun Exchange.
The installation is the first of a multi-phase solar-plus-storage project that will provide the fresh produce grower and exporter with lower-cost and reliable electricity, nearly eliminating its reliance on the grid, says Sun Exchange CEO and founder Abraham Cambridge.
“The Sun Exchange model enables Nhimbe Fresh to cut energy-related costs by roughly 60% and, with solar power replacing coal and diesel generation/backup, its emissions will be reduced by more than 1 000 t/y. The project demonstrates that it is possible to deliver always-on power for African farmers, which increases output and reduces produce losses, energy costs and reliance on grid electricity, and without capital expenses,” he adds.
The crowd-sale saw solar cells bought by 1 905 individuals across 98 countries, and marked Sun Exchange’s forty-fourth completed solar installation. The Nhimbe Fresh project is the largest Sun Exchange solar project to date, the first outside of South Africa and the first to include battery storage.
“With African countries under pressure to decarbonise, while simultaneously growing their economies, we need innovation that enables clean energy for businesses without placing a burden on national budgets or hindering development.
“With our technology- and community-driven approach to solar, businesses like Nhimbe Fresh can access affordable, reliable solar power, protect their operations from power outages, reduce energy costs and lead efforts to create a sustainable future,” he says.
“We are thrilled that so many sustainability-minded people from around the world are now earning income from the solar cells that power our packhouse. This sets an important precedent for what technology can make possible for solar power in Africa when organisations and individuals put their money to work doing good,” says Nhimbe Fresh chairperson Dr Edwin Masimba Moyo.
US renewable energy developer and portfolio manager Energea Global, which manages more than $100-million in funds, bought thousands of solar cells in the Nhimbe Fresh solar project.
“With the impacts of climate change becoming alarmingly real across the world, we must support and scale solutions that address the finance gap for smaller solar projects in emerging markets,” Energea partner and co-founder Mike Silvestrini says.
“We share Sun Exchange’s passion for this work, and are proud and excited to have made this project part of the offering to our investors, and joining Nhimbe Fresh on their solar journey,” he says.