UNDP Partners With Crypto Startup on Solar Power Pilot

Individuals who purchase and lease out solar panels will earn bitcoin as payment under a new pilot program with a blockchain startup and the UN.

AccessTimeIconMay 1, 2018 at 8:34 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:53 a.m. UTC
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Blockchain startup Sun Exchange has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on a pilot program that seeks to bring solar power to a university in Moldova.

The solar cells will be owned by individuals around the world and leased to the recipient university, which allows the school to save on the costs of building the equipment, according to a blog post. Notably, the cells' owners will be paid exclusively in cryptocurrency.

Sun Exchange chief executive Abe Cambridge said the university would lease the cells for 20 years, during which time whoever owns them would receive some amounts of bitcoin, solarcoin and the startup's own crypto token as compensation. The "buy-to-lease" platform allows these individuals to pay for the cost of building and the installation of the solar cells, which sell for under $10 apiece.

While the UN blog post mentions the Technical University of Moldova as a likely recipient for the pilot program, the actual school has not yet been determined, Cambridge told CoinDesk. However, the panels are scheduled to begin generating power within the next three months.

While right now the startup helps people purchase and lease the cells, Cambridge ultimately wants the cells to be directly tradeable on exchanges through a representative token, he said, adding:

"Our goal is to tokenize the solar cell so they can be traded on exchanges. That's going to be a non-fungible token and for the moment we can’t see that working under the current state of blockchain development [but] we want the solar cells to be accessed and referenced by digital transfers."

The startup is helping people become familiar with trading cryptocurrencies he said, noting that "a lot of our customers are using bitcoin for the very first time," but that "about three quarters ... ask to be paid back in bitcoin rather than their [fiat] currency."

If the project is successful, it could be expanded into more nations, he added.

UNDP project manager Dumitru Vasilescu, who is overseeing the pilot program, told CoinDesk that the "decision to partner with Sun Exchange is based on our understanding of the replicability of their model."

He said that if the project is successful, "we will search for replication in countries where UNDP operates."

"We are currently preparing for the pilot and will be soon looking into potential [Engineering, Procurement and Construction] companies," Vasilescu explained.

Solar cells image via Shutterstock


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