Jenny Paradiso is an ATA business member. Green at heart, her solar installation business began after helping out family and friends with buying their solar systems, writes Beth Askham.
SUNTRIX is a South Australian solar installation business started by Jenny Paradiso and her husband Dave Hille in 2009. It’s been growing rapidly ever since and so far they’ve supplied and installed over 10,000 kW of solar. Their interest in renewable energy came long before the business. Jenny says a reason they initially started Suntrix was because they were greenies at heart and wanted to make a difference. “It was about malting solar accessible, helping people understand how solar works and how every person can make a difference”.
Suntrix began when they decided to install solar themselves and couldn’t find the information they needed. It motivated them to do their own research to find a system they were confident investing in. It didn’t take long until friends and family asked them to install their systems and Suntrix was born. Initially, both Jenny and Dave kept their day jobs as a librarian and network engineer while they worked on the business from the kitchen table in the evenings.
Jenny and Dave became subscribers to both ReNew and Sanctuary magazines when they were thinking of building their house. These plans were put on hold, however, when they mortgaged the land to start the business. Luckily the risk paid off and Suntrix has grown from its small beginnings to a company with a turnover of $11 million in the last financial year.
The company now employs 25 staff with both in-house installers and long-term subcontractor teams. Most staff are trained in solar installation as Jenny believes everyone who works for them should understand their business. This means they have a high proportion of electricians on the staff, including the Chief Business Officer. Even the team’s solar designer has a CEC accreditation for installing solar for both off grid and on grid.
When discussing the barriers people face when installing solar, Jenny thinks that a confusing marketplace is a major one: “There are so many companies and so many products, not all of which are equal;’ she says. It certainly makes it hard when you need to mal<e sure the products you use are good quality. “When you buy solar you are spending a minimum of $2000 to $3000 and you want to mal<e sure that investment will last.”
There are also great differences in the deals offered by energy providers so solar customers need to shop around. Jenny advises people to install solar first as changing retailers can delay your solar installation while you wait for your meter to be read.
One interesting element of Suntrix is that they design products themselves, including an energy monitoring system called myWatt. Jenny says that monitoring your system’s production and your energy use is important to mal<e sure you are getting the most out of your panels. “We come across people every week who have invested in solar and have no idea if their system is working to its full potential,” she says, giving an example of a system where a cockatoo had chewed through a cable, disabling half the system.
Jenny points out that Suntrix encourages people to keep track of their energy use and aim for energy efficiency instead of suggesting they buy a bigger solar system. “We focus a lot on educating people about energy use in the house. We wouldn’t go in and suggest that they get a massive system as we don’t believe it will help them in the long run. Also, if you have a good understanding of your energy use patterns then you’re going to be more likely to make behaviour changes.
It’s not just residential properties that are installing solar; Suntrix has installed solar for many churches around Adelaide and in the last six months they have seen a surge in commercial solar installations. So far their commercial installations include wineries, a large mushroom farm and a yoghurt company. “It’s a no brainer for businesses to install solar,” says Jenny.