A solar tree in Nevers, France. Picture: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP
A solar tree in Nevers, France. Picture: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

The Sun Exchange, a Cape Town-based blockchain start-up that lets individuals buy into solar projects, has received a $500,000 seed investment from global hedge fund Alphabit.

The company raised $1.6m in 2017 from local investment firm Kalon Venture Partners and US investors, and plans to raise at least $5.4m via an initial coin offering, which it will run until the end of December.

The Sun Exchange’s platform lets individuals buy solar panels or individual cells and then lease them to end users, who  pay monthly rentals to the investors. The platform uses blockchain technology, a public online ledger of transactions best known as the technology behind digital currencies.

Alphabit CEO Liam Robertson said The Sun Exchange “has potential to disrupt two of today’s most dysfunctional centralised global systems — energy and finance … I’m convinced this will be one of the best equity investments Alphabit has made to date”.

Alphabit, which is registered in Dubai and the Cayman Islands, was launched in 2017 and planned to raise $300m for digital currency investments at the time, according to a Reuters report.

The Sun Exchange founder and CEO Abraham Cambridge said the investment would “significantly accelerate our growth and progress towards our goal of solar powering the world through the crypto-economy”.

In July, The Sun Exchange announced a partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio-backed Powerhive, which aims to use the Sun Exchange’s platform to supply electricity to 175,000 people in Kenya. The company has also partnered with the UN Development Programme on a separate pilot project.

In SA, The Sun Exchange is raising funds for its seventh project — the provision of solar power to Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg.

The company previously installed solar plants at Knysna Elephant Park, a wildlife rehabilitation centre in the Western Cape and at a school in Stellenbosch, among other projects.