Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roy talks to Train4TradeSkills Radio about his electrical course and running a solar panel company


So Roy, what were you doing before Train4TradeSkills?

At the present time I’m the Managing Director of a solar panel company and I’m heading up a team to install solar panels throughout the UK. I’m just on this course to learn something about electrics, which I know nothing about.

You mentioned you’re the MD of a solar panel company. How long have you been doing that for?

I’ve been doing that for 3 months. I’ve been working on procedures and putting a basic plan together to move the company forward. Before that, for the last 5 years, I’m a professional writer by trade – I’m a novelist and I’ve written a number of books throughout the UK and USA.

Before that I was a Managing Director of a Financial Services company for quite a number of years. I left that to go full-time writing and I’ve been encouraged to head up this new operation.

Could you tell us the name of the solar company you work for?

It’s Solarwise Renewables Limited. It’s quite a new company that has been set up. Renewable Energy is going to be the future of this country. It’s very big in Germany and Europe at the moment and the government has got to meet its renewable energy targets between 2015 and 2020. Failing that there’s going to be quite large fines coming in.

 With reference to oil and gas they are finite resources, so the costs are going up, as people are aware in rises in electrical and gas bills for the last few years. So I need to know how the system works from an academic point of view. Running a company I’ve got a lot of experience, I’ve done a degree in Economics and worked in Financial Services. I know about the procedures but the actual day-to-day installation of electronics I’m not familiar with.  Hopefully this course will give me the knowledge that I need to move forward.

Before you came to the practical training, did you have any experience installing solar panels at all?

No, I’ve had no experience at all of the actual installation.  I’m familiar with the procedures that MCS and other organisations are putting together. A number of years ago I worked on procedures with the Financial Services Authority so I’m familiar with structure but I’m unfamiliar with the installation of solar panels. 

The theory work I’m fine with that but I’m not familiar with the day-to-day operations and going on the roof and linking them in with the electrical supply. Hopefully this course will give me the knowledge to move forward – not to do the installations myself, but to know what’s happening. A key factor in business is if you want respect from people working for you, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about.

How are you finding the practical training so far?

It’s early days yet, but I’m finding it very, very good. It’s a hands-on, non-academic type of training designed to show you how to do it, take you through it and repeat the process over and over, and eventually it does sink in.  I find it quite difficult taking in the knowledge in large chunks, but slowly I’m bedding it down and actually getting there.

The lecturers I find are experienced in the practical aspect of the work , which is exactly what is needed for this type of operation.

The tutors at the centre – are they helping you out and giving you advice then?

Yes, they are very approachable and knowledgeable in the practical side of getting the job done and are prepared to “hold your hand” to take you forward, in a non-threatening type of environment.  Often when you are in a classroom situation , there are people who are unfamiliar with it, trepidation can get the better of people and nerves can kick in.  They do put you at rest very quickly – I found that within the first hour of being here.

So Roy, how did you find out about Train4TradeSkills then? What brought you to the course?

Well since I’ve been heading up this company I’ve been attending a lot of trade shows and making a lot of contacts throughout the area. And I meet one of the training recruitment people when I was on a training course in Cheltenham, and it’s developed from there really and that is why I’m on the course now.

Solar and renewable energy is the future of the industry. How do you see it going in the next few years?

Obviously the tariffs have changed, but realistically speaking the tariffs were high anyway because the cost of installations have gone down in the last few years and the return on capital the householder gets, bearing in  mind they’ve got to pay the cost of installation till the Green Deal comes in, it’s quite a good return on capital – there’s still about 6-7% return on capital for installation of solar panels.

There are other types of technologies that I am looking at now – I am putting a team together to look at this over the next 12 months and we’ll see how we go from there.

The Solar FIT cuts was the big story over the last few weeks, and many people are surprised it’s happened so quickly. Do you not think it will affect your business so much then?

Initially the jerk reaction is that it will affect the business but once you look at the calculations of the 43p return and then you escalate that up by the rate of inflation (at 5.4%) and you actually assume the money’s invested – the return to the householder goes down to about 5 years.

Bearing in mind the situation that our government is in, really it was an unsustainable situation. I was expecting it to change, not as fast as it did change. But I did say to a number of people that this level of return is unsustainable in the long-term and it was due to go down on March 31st 2012, but obviously they have brought it forward.

Finally Roy, would you be able to tell us the website of your company?
Yes it has, it’s www.solarwiserenewables.co.uk

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