Sun Exchange’s 1.9 MW Solar-Plus-Storage Project For Zimbabwe’s Vegetable Exporter

Power outages are a major concern in Zimbabwe

November 12, 2020


Zimbabwe’s leading fruit and vegetable exporter, Nhimbe Fresh, struck a deal with South African solar leasing platform Sun Exchange to install 1.9 MW of solar-plus-storage project for its cold store and packhouse facilities.

The deal marks the expansion of Sun Exchange into sub-Saharan Africa with the multiphase, 1.9 MW of solar-plus-storage project for Nhimbe Fresh. The project will be the largest Sun Exchange solar installation to date and the first outside South Africa.

Sun Exchange runs a solar crowdfunding model that enables people around the world  (who can earn a rental income in cryptocurrency) to purchase solar cells (built into modules) and then lease them to power schools, businesses, and other organizations.

Solar cells will be leased to Nhimbe Fresh at a dollar-pegged fixed price, with a forecast internal rate of return (IRR) of 12.33% for solar cell owners, the highest of any Sun Exchange project to now. This would mitigate the risk of currency fluctuations.

Nhimbe Fresh runs an out-grower program, working with 250 small farmers who receive specialized training and support and gain vast access to export markets. The company also provides clinic and childcare facilities for employees, sports funding, and participates in a program to empower youth in agriculture.

The solar and battery project will power Nhimbe Fresh packhouse and cold store facilities under phase 1, pump sites under phase 2, and Churchill Farm under phase 3. The introduction of continuous, reliable power, cheaper than running diesel generators, would reduce Nhimbe Fresh’s facilities’ energy costs by over 60% per year and reduce carbon emissions by more than one million kilograms per year.

The three project sites will be integrated with 3.9 MWh of battery capacity, enabling Nhimbe Fresh to continuously operate on solar energy alone, easing the burden of grid outages while maximizing earnings and carbon reductions.

Edwin Masimba Moyo, chairman and sole shareholder of Nhimbe Fresh, stated, ” Going solar through Sun Exchange is a significant step towards our vision, minimizing our energy costs and climate impact while strengthening our resilience and business continuity by enabling us to continue operations during power outages.”

In 2019, Zimbabwe launched a renewable energy policy to reduce power imports by generating at least 1.5 GW of solar power by 2030.

Abraham Cambridge, CEO, and founder of Sun Exchange said, “Agriculture accounts for approximately 23% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, yet this critical sector faces immense challenges including unreliable power supply, rising electricity costs, climate-induced drought and limited access to finance for clean energy. Sun Exchange directly addresses those challenges by facilitating access to effortless, affordable, reliable solar power.”

Earlier in June 2020, Sun Exchange secured a $3 million (~₹226.02 million) investment from ARCH Emerging Markets Partners’ Africa Renewable Power Fund, which marked the closing of the $4 million (~₹301.36 million) Series-A funding round.

There is great scope for the deployment of solar in the cold storage and food processing segment. Recently, The Indian wing of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), a Germany-based development agency, also floated a tender for ten solar-powered cold storage units for its projects in Karnataka and Maharashtra to reduce COVID-19 related agricultural losses.

Image credit: Nhimbe Fresh

Rahul is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Before entering the world of renewables, Rahul was head of the Gujarat bureau for The Quint. He has also worked for DNA Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad Mirror. Hailing from a banking and finance background, Rahul has also worked for JP Morgan Chase and State Bank of India. More articles from Rahul Nair.