Green electricity from a local, crowdfunded solar microgrid is turning into a new source of income for small-scale farmers in densely-populated Kisii County in western Kenya.
The project is just one of several financed by The Sun Exchange, a solar energy financier based in South Africa, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.
The Exchange “runs an online buy-to-lease marketplace for solar cells, where investors can buy solar equipment that is then leased to rural communities to help them run businesses,” the Foundation states, citing CEO Abe Cambridge. “As the businesses make a profit, investors get a rental income over 20 years—and poor communities get access to clean energy without the big up-front costs often associated with installing renewable energy.”
In Kenya, smallholders James and Janet Torori say they’ve increased their income by about $80 per month thanks to the Kuka Poa (“smart poultry” in Swahili) project, in which a microgrid supplied by Powerhive Inc. runs a hatchery and enables them to raise chicks for sale.
“Like everyone else around here, we have relied on two crops to support our family, and it has not been easy earning a decent income considering that what we have been producing is what everyone else produces,” said James Torori. “Their example “shows that commercial-scale solar could help many more rural people across East Africa earn a better living,” TRF adds.
In Cape Town, The Sun Exchange supplies electricity to the offices of environmental group SouthSouthNorth. “What is fantastic about the Sun Exchange model is that it benefits us as the recipient of power and it benefits the people buying the solar cells—and it’s also a win for the environment,” said Carl Wesselink, the organization’s regional director for Africa. By accelerating solar panel installation, he added, the approach could be “the catalyst required for realizing our (distributed) energy revolution”.