At the end of 2018 we look back on one of the most successful years in our 39-year history, and what a year – it has included expansion, TV awards, new staff, travels and getting ready for the big 4-0.
This year alone, we have installed some of the largest system we have ever done. Peterhead Fish Market, perched on the edge of the North Sea port, took 200 panels and provides 50kW of peak power. Closer to home, the new Moray Sports Centre is our largest to date, with 92kW of peak power. As the solar message is driven home, more and more commercial operators are using their roof space to capture the sun and turn it into free energy.
New office in Central Belt
As we grow, our ambition for a greater presence in the Central Belt came good. We secured premises in Edinburgh in January, as we were seeing increasingly more work, both domestic and commercial, from this area. It’s also a useful city base – we travel here regularly to meet clients and attend solar industry events in the capital and Glasgow.
The new office has prompted more enquiries through to our head office in Forres, where our senior engineers and estimating teams are based.
Enquiries up by 50%
This has contributed to an overall outstanding year for enquiries in general which are up by a staggering 50% on last year. The message is getting through that solar panels are a cost-effective investment and the reduction of energy bills from power companies is a real benefit.
But it’s not just solar panels that people are enquiring about. There’s a definite upsurge this year in questions about batteries, particularlythe Tesla Powerwall 2.
Battery storage now a reality
Battery storage is an increasingly popular additional investment for homeowners, businesses and district supply customers. With the evolution of technology in this sector bringing prices down, batteries are now more affordable and more practical for customers.
A battery solves the problem of power retention. When night falls and solar panels stop working is typically when households start using more. Workers return to their homes, put lights and heat on and start cooking. With batteries, we can use all the power that was collected in the daytime when properties are unoccupied.
The Tesla Powerwall is just one of many, but because of the link with Tesla Cars and the fame of the company’s leader Elon Musk, we’ve sold more Tesla products than any other this year.
Up to £11k interest-free
Despite the cost savings that can be had, there’s still the upfront cost to consider, and buying both systems often requires a lender.
So we’re really pleased that the Energy Savings Trust now offer interest-free loans for solar panel AND battery storage.
They will lend up to £11,000 which generally covers the cost of an average household solar PV and battery storage system, and they’ll give you up to 12 years to pay it back.
That’s an incredible offer when you think that you’ll start saving money from day one.
It’s all low-maintenance too. There’s hardly any servicing costs to worry about and some panel manufacturers, such as SunPower offer an amazing 25-year guarantee.
Cost-free motoring… in 2018?
The future of motoring was brought into the spotlight this year, when the Scottish Government announced it would eradicate the country of petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2035. That’s a long way away, but it’s ten years ahead of the rest of the UK, and it means Scotland will be a cleaner place to live and work than it already is.
Vehicle manufacturers are already selling electric and hybrid cars, so it won’t be long before your putting your foot on the volts
However, it does mean that if you’re running an electric car, you have to think about the additional cost of electricity to charge them. By 2035, who knows how high your energy bills will be.
But remember, if you’re fuelling up your car with power generated from your solar panels and stored in your batteries, it probably won’t cost you anything to fill your ‘tank’. Do we really have cost-free motoring right in front of us this year. Yes, we do!
New faces and new places
Back to growth as AES Solar. We welcomed two new hires this year, Chloe and Matthew, both in the technology side of our business, and they’re fitting in well and already a part of the team.
Operations Manager Josh King was invited to speak at a solar energy conference in China. He was a natural for the task, as he speaks fluent Chinese and made a holiday out of it. He also made some good connections at the event.
TV panel likes our panels
As we rolled into December we learned that a house we had helped build on the north-west coast was shortlisted in the TV programme Grand Designs House of the Year competition. Whittled down from a shortlist of 20, it went head-to-head in the final and won the title House of the Year in a gripping TV showdown.
Our job was to install the solar panels and off-grid energy system, and this was a major factor in the judge’s decision to give the award. Not only did it enhance the beauty of the property, it made it completely independent of mains energy.
And this wasn’t the only off-grid success story for us at AES Solar. We had many enquiries from householders and businesses who, for whatever reason, wanted an off-grid solution.
Island in the sun
Of particular note was the bird sanctuary on Handa Island, also in the north-west of Scotland. The island is closed for six months of the year with nobody living there permanently.
In summer, it is home to a handful of workers and volunteers from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, who do important conservation work on the island. AES Solar installed a system that gave them the power they needed while inhabiting the island.
Following the initial cost of installation, the system generates enough electricity for the island operation to function, at zero cost.
We’re hitting the big 4-0
And that brings us to our preparations for next year. We’re celebrating an incredible 40 years in the business.
AES Solar was formed in 1979 and is now the longest established solar company in Europe. We’ve seen companies come and go. We’ve acquired companies that didn’t survive.
We’re proud of our heritage and we’re going from strength to strength. It’s a time of year when we’re celebrating the start of a new year and everything it holds. But for AES Solar, we’re also celebrating the past 40 years and looking forward to the next four decades of solar energy.