Frequently Asked Questions
What is Sun Exchange?
Sun Exchange is a marketplace that enables its members to purchase and then lease solar cells to schools, businesses and communities in the sunniest locations on earth.
Sun Exchange hosts solar project crowd sales, each with thousands of optimally-located solar cells available for under $10 unit price. Already, solar cell owners in over 130 countries are earning income directly from their solar assets while benefiting the environment, and they are tracking their solar cells’ real-time performance on the Sun Exchange platform.
Solar cells purchased through the Sun Exchange are leased to hospitals, factories, schools and other end-users under 20-year contracts, with pricing that tracks changes in local energy prices and inflation. Energy consumers at the solar projects benefit from affordable electricity for no upfront cost, and pay for the solar electricity consumed to replace power from grid connections, diesel generators, and other dirty energy sources.
Sun Exchange’s global appeal is enhanced by its acceptance of bitcoin as a payment currency for solar cells, and distribution of fiat-based solar lease rental in bitcoin. Bitcoin payments are now implemented in all of Sun Exchange’s eight operating projects in South Africa. Looking forward Sun Exchange will complete development of Ethereum-based applications to decentralise and automate solar project payments, servicing, governance, and performance reporting.
Sun Exchange evaluates each proposed solar PV project prior to its sale, but only arranges construction after all the solar cells have been sold. Sun Exchange services include solar project co-design with Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) firms, generation of the solar equipment leases and related legal contracts, and solar energy lease rental collection and distribution over each lease contract term.
What is a solar cell?
Solar cells are the squares of silicon that make up a solar panel. Usually a solar panel is made up of 60 solar cells. Solar cells are the part of a solar panel that actually makes the electricity when exposed to sunlight. A solar cell is like a little piece of solar panel real estate, and you can buy as many as are available on a project. You can view open projects here. To make solar energy affordable for people on low incomes, we opted to sell cells rather than whole solar panels to lower the entry price. Your solar cells will all be given a unique reference number, locating it geographically and specifically on each solar project so you can physically visit your solar cell if you want to!
How do I get my solar cells to generate lease rental payments?
Your solar cells are leased to the electricity consumer, for which they pay you per kWh consumed. This is secured through a Lease Agreement and arranged by Sun Exchange. By default, you are opted into leasing your solar cells to the electricity consumer. You CAN opt out of this lease arrangement, see 'If they are my solar cells, can I ever get them back?'. Once operational, you can check your Sun Exchange dashboard to track your solar cell ownership and project data.
Why would I buy solar cells through Sun Exchange?
You might do so for any of these reasons:
- You are looking for a reliable income stream not reliant on traditional banking systems and fossil fuels;
- You may not own or have access to a roof space for installing solar panels onto;
- You may live in a place with less than ideal conditions for generating solar energy;
- You may be unable to afford the cost of installing a whole solar system;
- You may like the idea of owning solar panels powering the developing world;
- Lease rental payments earned through your ownership of solar cells purchased through Sun Exchange are not reliant on government subsidies and policy and therefore potentially more sustainable;
- You may already have solar panels on your roof and are looking to extend your solar assets.
Sun Exchange enables you to own solar cells that are located on roofs in the most ideal places imaginable at a very affordable price per unit. And you are helping electrify Africa with solar energy!
How do I buy solar cells through Sun Exchange?
Go here, find a project and buy! It only takes a few minutes to signup. Each crowd-sale has a limited number of solar cells available. Decide how many you want to buy and place an order.
Sun Exchange ensures that all necessary legal agreements are in place and that the solar project is installed to the highest standards.
How do I buy solar cells if I don't have South African Rand (ZAR)?
We accept other national fiat currencies via credit/debit card as well as direct bank transfer
You can also opt to pay in Bitcoin.
What is KYC and how do I complete it?
KYC stands for Know Your Customer. In order for us to comply with international financial regulations we need to verify your identity. This also ties in with anti-money-laundering regulations that we comply with. You will need to complete KYC before withdrawals are enabled on your account.
To complete your KYC please login to your Sun Exchange dashboard and click the "Please Verify Identity" button.
How are my rental income payments made?
The crowd-sale you backed was successful, and you’re now the proud owner of some solar cells soaking up glorious African sunshine. That’s all well and good, but how do YOU get paid?
The company or community using your solar cells will pay lease rental under contract. Their payments go into a segregated account and as they use the solar energy system, rental is paid out.
Rental payments are made monthly to your Sun Exchange dashboard wallet in either the national currency of the solar project, or in Bitcoin.
If you don't have a bank account in the country where the solar project is located you will need to receive your rental in Bitcoin.
If they are my solar cells, can I ever get them back?
You own the cells and you may take physical delivery of them, provided that you pay the collection and delivery costs. You can opt out of the lease agreement upfront if you tell us so. However, we think that deploying them in a professionally engineered and operated solar system is the ideal choice!
What happens at the end of the lease period?
You remain the owner of the solar cells. Sun Exchange may arrange a sale of the cells to the consumer or a 3rd party on your behalf or renegotiate an extended lease agreement.
Where do you operate?
We are developing solar projects in diverse and sunny locations so that you can build a solar portfolio upon which the sun will never set. Currently, our active projects are mainly in Southern Africa. However, we intend to expand to other areas of Africa and other continents in the future. We aim to help you diversify your solar portfolio to reduce risk and maximise payment streams.
Why South Africa?
- Solar is very effective in South Africa; the region receives twice as much sunlight as countries such as Germany and Spain.
- Solar is the lowest-cost option for electrification, because growing demand for power has increased the price of electricity sourced from the national grid.
- In sun-soaked Africa, solar projects are viable without government subsidies and tax incentives and are therefore generally sustainable over the long term. In Europe, entire national solar industries have been destroyed at the stroke of a pen!
- Unfortunately, many hospitals, schools, factories, etc. in South Africa lack resources to purchase solar equipment. Our globally distributed customers can own and lease solar equipment via our online platform and provide SMEs throughout South Africa access to clean, reliable, affordable power.
Who are you?
We are a dynamic, enthusiastic team of solar professionals with an incredibly broad mix of expertise. We are all united by our dedication to transforming the way we distribute energy access and where we originate our wealth. We imagine a future where anyone can help build clean, reliable, distributed sources of solar power in developing economies, without relying on centralised authorities and utilities or on polluting, rapidly-depleting oil supplies. Sun Exchange was founded by solar entrepreneur Abraham Cambridge.
We are a marketplace for solar PV equipment that can be strategically installed to benefit developing communities and earn the purchaser rental income. Payments to Sun Exchange go towards purchasing solar cells and supporting equipment for projects. We are not a bank, we do not make loans and we do not issue securities. Each purchaser may choose to not deploy their cells in one of our projects, and may instead accept delivery at a chosen address, for an additional processing fee
Solar cells in the projects we host are available to everyone in the world. If you don't live in the country where the project is located, transferring currency across borders is often expensive and time-consuming. Bitcoin is a universal blockchain based digital currency. Put simply, it is internet money. We accept Bitcoin so that your payments to us and lease rental payments going to you can be sent wherever you are in the world quickly, securely and at a very low cost. If you don't yet have an account (called a "wallet") with a local Bitcoin exchange, please contact us, and we can guide you through this simple setup process.
What is SolarCoin?
SolarCoin is a valuable digital token created as an incentive to solar producers. They are tradable through digital currency exchanges and can therefore be converted to hard currency. Any solar installation owner can register to the SolarCoin network and receive a SolarCoin for each MWh (1000 kWh) of solar electricity that they produce. This means that when you buy solar panels through Sun Exchange, you are entitled to receive an allocation of SolarCoin. Basically, it is free money!
SolarCoins are managed by the SolarCoin Foundation. Sun Exchange does not guarantee any obligations of the SolarCoin Foundation.
How do I add a receiving/payout account?
Can I receive rental payments in my local currency?
You can earn rental in the national currency of the specific solar project or in Bitcoin.
National currency earnings can only be withdrawn to a bank account located in the country of the solar project. Cell owners who don't live in that country need to earn their rental in Bitcoin.
All rental earnings can be used directly from your dashboard to purchase solar cells in future projects
What are SUNEX tokens?
Sun Exchange has established a SUNEX rewards program with user levels named after different stages of star formation. The highest user level is “Ra,” named after the Egyptian sun god. The more SUNEX a Sun Exchange member owns, the higher they progress through the tiers and the more valuable their benefits become.
SUNEX tokens are earned through purchasing solar cells (where a spend of 10 USD earns 1 SUNEX token) and by unlocking achievements in the gamified rewards program.
For full details of all the membership tiers, their associated bonuses and a list of unlockable achievements please visit this link.
I am a non accredited US investor, can I still participate in your solar cell crowd-sales?
Yes you can. However as it currently stands, any rental income earned in excess of your original purchase amount will be donated to the designated charity of the project in question.
Can I register an account on behalf of a business or organisation?
Yes you can!
When you click the "Please Verify Identity" button on your dashboard, select the institutional account option.
You will then be prompted to email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then send you the required forms to complete so that we can perform a KYC check on your business/organisation.
Why shouldn't I just keep my money in the bank?
Sun Exchange is a mission driven global platform built for conscientious capital to take emerging markets solar, whilst enabling anyone on Earth to generate solar electricity which can be sold for a reasonable income sourced from sunlight.
On a purely monetary basis we acknowledge that there are options of getting higher returns in traditional finance, but even these are not without risk. There is no such thing as a 100% risk free place to store value. Interest rates may change, such as the cuts seen recently in the US and the UK, but the sun will always shine and energy will only be more in demand as emerging economies develop.
Banks have failed, and are sometimes left to fail, and it is only a matter of time before we see another 2008 type event which will cause major financial disruption globally.
Sun Exchange provides a refreshing alternative to the status quo. Our community is very diverse, citing multitudes of reasons why they'd rather make money from the sun than hold money in a bank account.
The 'divestment' movement is a global phenomenon, with millions of people angered and frustrated by what banks do with their money. High Street Banks can invest into environmentally and socially damaging activities such as fracking, deforestation and weapon manufacturing, behind an opaque wall with no transparency. These are activities which are simply not tolerable for the many who are looking for alternatives.
For the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic returns, we think our product is hard to beat. The Sun Exchange community uses our platform to achieve these aspirations.
Many Sun Exchange members see that holding energy generating assets in a region of the world with an ever growing demand for energy is a more desirable place to create wealth, and they do so in a way that is interactive, and in a manner in which they are in control of what their money is doing.
For our many platform users in the West who are earning <0.1% ROI in bank accounts, the income generation potential of generating solar energy is a very attractive proposition. For platform users that hold their wealth in highly volatile cryptocurrencies, buying solar cells is a way to convert theoretical wealth into something real and tangible that then pays out in a more predictable stream of bitcoin.
What happens if Sun Exchange goes bankrupt? Do I need to collect lease payments myself?
The short answer is no, you wouldn't need to collect lease payments yourself.
All of our solar projects are setup under ring fenced, bankruptcy remote, special purpose vehicles (SPVs), which in their own right are profitable. The income to the cell owners is net of service fees, operational fees, maintenance costs etc. All of which are accounted to that SPV.
Now what this means is that if Sun Exchange goes under, for whatever reason, the SPVs are bankruptcy protected and they've got nothing to do with Sun Exchange and therefore whichever receiver comes in then owns those SPVs and the solar cell leases are still tied to those SPVs.
So the solar cell owners are leasing to those SPVs, which are bankruptcy protected and there are still service fees available to make it worthwhile for somebody to come along and take on the rental collection and distribution to the solar cell owners.
How do I use my available balance to buy more solar cells?
Step 1. Login to your Sun Exchange account.
Step 2. Navigate to the project page.
Step 3. Click on "Buy Solar Cells"
Step 4. Enter the amount of cells you wish to purchase.
Step 5. Select your rental accumulation currency - either ZAR or Bitcoin.
Step 6. Select the wallet currency and enter the amount you wish to use.
Step 7. If you need to pay extra, select the payment method you wish to use to pay the balance.
Step 8. Select how much of your rental income you would like to donate to the nominated charity.
Step 9. Tick the boxes to confirm that you have read, understood and agree to our Terms of Service as well as the information contained in the Project Information Document.
Step 10. Click "Place Order".
Step 11. On the next screen you need to click "Confirm Wallet Payment". If you close the page before clicking the button the order will not be processed.
I don't want to be exposed to the volatility of the Bitcoin price. How can I avoid this?
This can be broken down into two sections:
- Buying solar cells with Bitcoin
- Receiving rental payments in Bitcoin
Buying solar cells with Bitcoin
When purchasing solar cells using Bitcoin you may be concerned about price fluctuations causing you to lose value due to a price decrease, or miss out on more cells due to a price increase. With this in mind, we offer two different Bitcoin payment methods:
- BTC - by number of cells
- BTC - by value of BTC
With the first method as soon as your BTC reaches us (minimum of 3 confirmations required) it is exchanged for ZAR and your cells will reflect on your dashboard.
With the second method, we hold your BTC until the end of the crowdsale and then exchange it at the spot price at the time. This means that you could receive more or less cells than you expected. While the crowdsale is still open, the amount of cells owned shown on your dashboard updates dynamically according the current BTC price.
Receiving rental payments in Bitcoin
If you are concerned about the Bitcoin price dropping, thus losing value of your earned rental we recommend withdrawing your earnings and converting them back to your local currency on a monthly basis.
What is IRR and how is it calculated?
IRR stands for internal rate of return and is the interest rate at which the net present value of all the cash flows (both positive and negative) from a project or investment equal zero. IRR is used to evaluate the attractiveness of a project or investment.
For a more detailed definition of IRR and how it is calculated please check out this Investopedia article