Business Maverick


Ex-pupil uses crypto and solar energy to propel Pretoria Boys High into the future

Ex-pupil uses crypto and solar energy to propel Pretoria Boys High into the future
Unsplash / Nazrin Babashova | Pretoria Boys High. (Photo: Flickr / Sergio Singh)

An alumnus of one of South Africa’s oldest schools has backed a crowdfunding campaign in a big way to hook the school up to solar power.

Despite having been founded 122 years ago and being steeped in tradition, Pretoria Boys High School is confidently taking huge strides into the future, with a 198kW solar solution that has been funded entirely by Bitcoin via the Sun Exchange solar leasing platform.

A former pupil of the school, who chose to remain anonymous (and no, it is not Elon Musk), used the Sun Exchange platform to buy 98% of all solar cells in the project and will earn income for 20 years on the clean energy generated, while the school gains solar power at zero capital cost.

The 198kW solar solution is expected to cut 5,800 tonnes of carbon over 20 years, equivalent to taking 210,000 petrol cars off the road for a year. It will reduce the school’s energy bills and reliance on diesel generators during load shedding.

Saul Wainwright, chief executive of Sun Exchange, says with the impacts of climate change becoming alarmingly real across the world, it is time to urgently scale solutions that address the solar finance gap for smaller solar projects in emerging markets, while also mitigating the energy crisis.

“This project and the purchase of solar cells by an alumnus of the school and crypto investor, demonstrate the power of cryptocurrency and innovative fintech to unlock capital for the clean energy transition. Together with our global community, we’re forging a path towards a more sustainable future, where clean energy and technological innovation combine to transform the landscape.”

Sun Exchange hosts solar crowd sales for schools, retirement homes, farms and other organisations on its online platform, allowing any individual or business to buy solar cells (in Bitcoin or regular currency) that power organisations in southern Africa. The organisations that receive the benefits of solar power solutions pay only for the clean energy generated. Investors or solar cell owners can elect to receive their monthly income in either Bitcoin or South African rands, paid into an online wallet provided by the platform.

“Solar energy and blockchain are two of the most exciting and transformative technologies of our age, and when I came across this solar project to power my alma mater, I was intrigued and excited,” the anonymous investor said. “Through the speed of global peer-to-peer digital transactions, as individuals we can finance and benefit from solar power at the click of a button, but also pioneer a new era of sustainable innovation.”

Pretoria Boys High School counts Rhodes scholars, Supreme Court judges, archbishops, business leaders and sporting heroes among its alumni – including 2021 Booker Prize winner Damon Galgut, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, footballer Mark Fish, British lord Peter Hain and Max Theiler, who won the Nobel Prize for his vaccine against yellow fever. (Not to mention the editor of Business Maverick Tim Cohen – Ed).

Greg Hassenkamp, headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School, says the clean energy will benefit the entire campus, including classrooms, laboratories, and special venues.

At least 28 other schools are also powered by Sun Exchange solar solutions, including Cape Town schools Bergvliet High, Rondebosch Boys’ High and Wynberg Girls’ High; Westville Girls’ High in Durban; and the Stellenbosch Waldorf School. DM

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