Don Gregory CEng, FIMarEST, Leah Robson MSc
Sustainable Solar Solutions was started in 2008 by Don Gregory. “With a background in marine engineering – 15 years in a sea going career and 20 years with a major oil company in their marine marketing business, the thought of being in charge of one’s own destiny was exciting and motivating”.
Leah Robson joined the business in 2012 after a successful career in IT and Management Consultancy, following a career break to have her children. “Managing technical projects and working with customers who are still learning about the technology is what I enjoy, both in IT and renewables installations.
There is absolutely no doubt that good training is essential but that having a few installations under ones belt provides real underlying knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of each technology and what works well and what one should not specify. Renewables are quite different from industrial energy. They are not always available and sometimes there is too much energy coming along.
By way of an example, the recent unseasonably long periods of uninterrupted sunshine have resulted in a bout of solar thermal systems overheating and calls for help and maintenance. The Government has not been very good at promoting the renewables sector either from a benefits perspective or from the different renewable options and how to make the choices. Unfortunately the manufacturers have also been poor in both these functions. So it has been down to the installer to act as Consultant to the domestic market.
Overall since the business was started in 2008 the experience has been fun, a bit stressful but definitely rewarding. The main struggle for SSS today is to find skilled fitters and take the step to the next size of organisation that requires a base load of business to cover fixed costs.
The business was formed in 2008 after a meeting with a major supplier (Kingspan) who agreed to include SSS on its list of accredited suppliers. An attraction of the renewables sector was the opportunity to grow with the sector and thus build experience, knowledge and credibility as the sector matured. In addition, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme requires all businesses to commit and achieve certain standards of competence, quality, design and operations. The scheme operates a very strict and demanding audit scheme. Thus a new business is not simply competing with the lowest cost operators but with other suppliers that are also operating high quality installations.
The MCS scheme is criticised for being too theoretical and focused on business operations and not enough on skills and competency of installation. A fair criticism but one which is less relevant today as the MCS standards have improved and have extended into a more demanding scope. All in all the scheme is designed to raise standards in UK workmanship; it certainly is achieving that goal.
With any business, managing cash is absolutely critical. Self-funding is always better than borrowed money as long as the business is viable and the access to markets have been thought through and are real. SSS has never advertised or spent company money on promotion. Nevertheless the business has built up a critical mass of business through the suppliers websites (Kingspan, Vaillant, Dimplex etc), through the MCS website, through consumer referrals such as the Which Trader website and through contacts with Architects, M&E consultants and the like. A key feature of the renewables business in the UK is the limited number of installers and the reasonably high hurdle of gaining MCS.
SSS covers a range of renewables, namely Solar Thermal, Photo Voltaic and Ground and Air Source heat pumps. This diversity has a cost in terms of maintenance of the wide range of standards but the benefit is that with changing demands caused by factors such as the change in the Feed-in tariff, whilst one technology declines in activity one of the other technologies gains ground. Thus SSS has seen the 7 day per week rush to install PV before the FIT was to be reduced to the current situation where solar PV is growing again from a very quiet patch. On the other hand Heat Pumps have become more popular and are keeping the business busy.
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Quick Contact Details
TEL: 01784 437180
MOBILE: 07812 084868
Sustainable Solar Solutions Ltd.
8 The Island, Wraysbury,
Staines TW19 5AS
Company Reg No 6725481
Reg Number 12624. MCS Certified and Green Deal Approved for measures listed on this website