When they were looking into installing solar panels for their own home three years ago, Adelaide couple David Hille and Jenny Paradiso found themselves unhappy with both the service and options on offer.
The couple decided it would be easier to do it themselves and, with a new-born baby at home, made the switch from employees to business owners, going part-time in their roles in IT and as a librarian to develop a solar tracking system and investigate the solar industry.
They installed their own solar panels in November 2009 and one month later received their first order.
Three years on and SunTrix is a multi-million dollar solar business turning over more than $11 million in the last financial year. Well up from $50,000 in their first year.
Helping with sales, also in that first year, David created the SunTrax tracking system, which increases solar exposure by up to 40 per cent by tracking the sun across the sky. He installed a prototype on his father-in-law’s property and then commercially launched the tracking system six months later.
The company has sold more than 35,000 solar panels.
Based at Newton, SunTrix employs more than 20 staff and this year will expand into a large display centre and warehouse with plans to provide on-site training courses to help support the solar industry.
Jenny said there was a real sense of achievement filling a much needed gap in the solar industry.
“When we started the business in 2009, we didn’t imagine it to grow so quickly,” she said.
“I think we filled a much needed gap in the solar industry, providing some expert advice and focusing on quality, value for money products.
“To now be employing 22 staff and helping more than 1000 homeowners each year is fabulously rewarding.
“(And) what is most important to us is that we’re genuinely helping people who are interested in getting solar panels but are wary of all the hype aren’t sure who to trust.
“It can be an intimidating market out there as we found, with thousands of products to choose from and hundreds of companies advertising that they’re the best or the cheapest or both.
“Our aim has always been to educate and inform, not merely to sell, and to ensure every person has a clear understanding of how solar will work within their environment and the benefits it will offer.”
Meanwhile, Jenny has also warned that solar panels could become a luxury only the rich could afford, with the Federal Government halving solar rebates six months earlier than expected.
The decision, announced last October, sees the rebate cut from $2000 to $1000 from January 1, 2013.
Jenny said the rebate drop would push solar panels beyond the reach of average Australian families who are at the mercy of rising electricity costs.
“People who need it the most Australia-wide will be hit the hardest,” she said.
“It’s disappointing for Australian homeowners. Just as the solar industry is starting to recover from the last incentive cut, the Government has struck another blow to both consumers and solar companies.”
Ms Paradiso said spiralling electricity costs had many Australians wondering if they should invest in solar.
“Solar is a very good investment and has many benefits,” she said.
“It helps reduce or eliminate your electricity bill, reduces your carbon footprint and adds value to your home.
“But this is one purchase where you really need to do your homework.”
Published in the Fifth Estate – an online newspaper for green buildings and sustainable development. Read the article here