ET Business feature: THE sky could be the limit when it comes to the potential for fitting solar PV panels and boosting the business of Peterborough-based Sovereign Installation Services.
The company, which managing directors Tony and Melisa Dell set up from their home in 1999 installing kitchens and bathrooms, added the Solar Power branding 12 months ago.
“Solar is the only way to counteract rising fuel bills,” said Tony, who predicts a bright future for the renewable source of fuel.
“Over the past few years, more and more of our existing customers have been asking us about solar power.
“It just seemed like a natural fit for us to extend our range of services to cater for this rapidly growing market.
“A householder on solar power could save about £220 a year on their electricity bills, as well as generate an income of up to £1,400.”
It accounts for about 15 per cent of overall business at Sovereign, which Tony hopes to double by March 2012, when the Government’s feed-in tariffs reduce from 43.3p per Kw hour.
The company shuns commissioned sales staff, its solar panel surveys and quotations being carried out by fully-trained surveyors, for expert impartial advice and no hard-sell tactics.
All its installers are fully accredited under the Microgeneration Certificate Scheme (MCS), which is essential to enable customers to benefit from the Government-backed feed-in financial incentive scheme.
Solar power complements Sovereign’s other brands, Installations, Plumbing and Heating Services and Electrical Services, to put the company on course for turnover of £3.5 million in the current financial year – a 10-fold increase since it moved to its site in Challenger Way six years ago.
The business has remained strong in the challenging times of the last three years, with no downturn in the recession.
In each of 2008, 2009 and 2010, it was able to turn over about £3 million.
Sovereign has outgrown its premises and is due to move to bigger ones in nearby Newark Road in the new year, where the offices will not only have a makeover, but there will also be a new purpose-built showroom and warehouse of about 6,000sq ft.
“We will have an eco office at the new premises that will showcase solar PV, air heat source punps and rainwater harvesting,” said Tony.
“Customers will be able to see for themselves how all the energy-saving products that we supply, work”.
Sovereign Solar Power, which is about to embark on a major advertising campaign, has itself secured significant works.
For example, it has two 50Kw solar contracts on two barns to the value of £120,000 each.
As such, it has been able to take on a number of apprentices to add to its field staff of 65 in various trades operating from 24 vans, which is over and above the 10 administration staff.
Sovereign, which also installs for Wickes, B&Q and, shortly, Tesco, is keen to give assurance to customers by offering a five-year workmanship guaranteee on solar installations, and a guarantee of 18 months on other works.
Tony said: “Ours is an open book approach.
“we will beat any like-for-like quote.”
It’s all a far cry from the time 12 years ago when Tony started out with a red van and one labourer based at his home in Newark Avenue.
That scenario changed within months to one where he was employing five or six men operating from a few vans, and offering everything for the homeowner, including installing kitchens and bathrooms, electrics and gas.