When Stewart Davies launched A Shade Greener, he knew the business would live or die by the reputation it acquired.
The firm’s rapid growth could in itself, have posed problems.
In just 18 months, the company went from seven to more than 137 employees and installed more than 2,250 systems on homes, which, if they were all on the same road, would stretch from Sheffield to Leeds.
“All the people we employ are local. Most of them are ex armed forces personnel who we have retrained – and they have been great,” says Stewart.
A Shade Greener has developed its own system to keep its customers satisfied. Following a survey, to see whether the property is suitable, one of a team of 20 home visitors goes round to ensure the client knows about and is happy with the arrangements.
All roofs and installations are examined and approved by an independent structural engineer.
Installation takes less than a day and the team will even go as far as shrink wrapping shrubs in the client’s garden if they think they might otherwise get damaged.
The team photographs the roof before they start and may even carry out some minor repairs as part of the service.
“All the roofs we work on are in a better condition when we leave them,” says Stewart. “Some of the roofs we have worked on have a couple of slates missing or broken, which we will replace – we are forever buying second hand slates!”
The company makes a point of using top quality, self-cleaning solar panels and mounting systems.
It’s intelligent self interest. A Shade Greener insures and maintains the installations as part of its free service and needs the solar cells to keep working efficiently for at least 25 years if it is to make a profit for its investors.
“We didn’t lose any panels or suffer any damage to our installations during the storms earlier this year – although some of the roofs on either side of some of our installations did lose tiles,” says Stewart.
Each installation also incorporates a remote monitoring device which sends out regular text messages saying how well the system is performing and alerting the company if something is wrong.
And if that wasn’t sufficient attention to detail, GE Capital carried out a random survey of householders with A Shade Greener installations before approving the next stage of funding and came up with a clean bill of health.
What’s more, a Shade Greener’s business model is based on receiving the Generation Tariff – which pays a fixed amount for every kilowatt of electricity the panels generate – rather than the Export Tariff – which pays an additional sum for supplying excess power to the grid.
The company is happy for homeowners to use every kilowatt its solar panels generate and is actively looking at ways to help them use as much as possible.
One possibility is to use electricity generated when no one is at home to heat water for use later. Another could be to run the washing machine. Smart technology is now being developed that allows electrical devices to recharge when home demand is at its lowest.