SunFunder Turns the Lights On For Those Off the Grid

People living in small villages in developing countries have the opportunity to leapfrog past the centralized power generation model, straight into distributed renewables, much as they have already done with cell phones, bypassing the world of land lines altogether. This is a win-win for everyone, particularly the 1.5 billion people currently living in energy poverty. But it's also good for the rest of us too, since the proliferation of clean energy technology will help preserve the stability of our planet's climate system. The fact is, there are 600 million people out there with cell phones and no power to charge them at home.

The problem is that solar technology, unlike a basic cell phone, is expensive. And while even a small solar panel could be so very useful for people living at the bottom of the pyramid, for charging cell phones or allowing clean LED lights to replace dangerous and unhealthy kerosene lamps, that would be too expensive for someone earning only a few dollars a day.

That is exactly where SunFunder comes in where their crowd-funding solutions, offering people around the world the opportunity the assist people truly in need with very specific and very useful solutions. According to their website:

"We believe that people around the world would lend money to these businesses if they could, and so we’ve created a crowdfunding platform to connect individual investors with quality, vetted, high impact solar businesses working on the ground in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

- We also believe that engaging individuals to finance these projects will create a huge leverage to stimulate institutional capital flows into these markets.

- We’re doing this to create impact, and we will measure the economic, environmental and social impact our platform creates over time."

As of the close of 2013, after 18 months of operation, they have successfully reached 100,000 people with $363,000 in loans for off-grid solar projects.

Recipients have been primarily in the Philippines, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania who have had the kerosene lamps, candles, and car batteries they had been using as primary lighting and cellphone charging sources replaced with clean and affordable solar products.

SunFunder's partner companies provide products ranging from 3W single-task solar lanterns to 50W solar home systems that are capable of charging 6 LED lights, cellphones, and radio.  

Along the way, SunFunder and their eight partner solar companies launched 18 projects in 5 countries maintaining a 100% repayment rate.

The crowdfunding community of 728 people from 41 countries raised $169,000 and fully funded 12 projects on sunfunder.com.

They also completed a $250,000 round of Solar Empowerment Notes, $194,000 of which has been facilitated as five project loans.

Some examples of successful projects include a fully funded project in Tanzania providing lighting for 450 schoolteachers,  allowing them to prepare lessons at home at night. Bright Children, Bright Future raised $62,500 to purchase 8,000 solar powered lights in Kenya, allowing students to study while saving families some 20% of their annual expense. Ready, Set, Charge empowers micro-entrepreneurs utilizing smart batteries to provide a cell phone charging service to other members of the community while producing a modest income for themselves.

Efforts like these, while small, are building and creating a growing impact in bringing people sustainably into a better quality of life, one step at a time, while building bridges across cultures and across oceans.

 

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