Solar Electric Ventures to Carlow (Interview)

Mary Anne: At 6 o’clock now, I’m joined in the studio by Robert Goss from a company called Solar Electric and you’re Wexford based.  The company is, anyway.  Not you Robert but – yeah.

Robert: Yes, I commute from Thomastown over the hill trough Kiltealy, outside Enniscorthy to a place called Killane. So, I have the most beautiful commute.

Mary Anne:  Oh lovely! It is a really idyllic area.

Robert: Yes – yes, that is correct, yeah.

Mary Anne: Absolutely.  So, Solar electric you’re going to venture over the border into Carlow next week for the Ploughing Championships.  You’re setting up there. You might tell us a little bit about the company itself and what you do.

Robert: Yes, Solar electric was started 2011-2012 by Tom Foley who is my business partner.  We’ve been in the domestic and industrial solar PV business since then. And solar PV, as you probably know, not the solar hot water systems of old but the solar panels on your roof that make electricity. We’ve been, fortunately, successful locally and across the country with domestic solar and in very big projects like those for the Defense Forces – those for big bakeries and so forth.

Mary Anne:  That’s fantastic. And you were just telling me that you were in Germany recently looking at a specific type of battery that you now have an offer for people.  Basically, it’s storing energy during the day – releasing it at night.

Robert:  That’s exactly right, Mary Anne.

Mary Anne:  Bring in the tech stuff.

Robert:  Yeah, so.  It sounds technical but it’s simply not.  The whole great thing about solar is that it makes electricity during the day. So, obviously during daylight hours. That’s fantastic for people who are home during the day.  People who are doing their washing during the day.  People who are using electricity to, maybe to, heat up water. But there’s a whole lot of other people who are going out to work during the day to pay the mortgage.  And for those people, it makes a lot more sense to have a battery.  And we import the Sonnen battery from Bavaria.

And we’ve been working with Sonnen now since 2016 – with this battery.  And what that does really is, it will store up the free daytime electricity and then give you electricity through the evening that you’ve stored up. So, it performs that task of storing up power for you to use later. And really, if you have a big enough battery it probably won’t run out until 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.

Mary Anne: Until up to a few years ago I’m just thinking, now you know, in terms of solar technology, it was very rare that you would see people who had solar panels on their roofs, or in their gardens or in their sheds or wherever they were.  But now you see it quite often. Have you seen a big increase in the last few years in sales for people looking for that kind of technology?

Robert:  Absolutely! So, the new houses that are being built nearly always have it.  But we’ve had some great customers here. I can remember Dr. Murphy down by the Noor in the city centre. But he was an early adopter, someone who was interested in renewable energy. There were enthusiasts at the start but now it has become round in the mill. A bit like electric cars.  They used to be just a thing for people who really were into it. But now it’s become a widespread thing.

Maryanne:  All right. Okay.  And what kind of customers are you getting then?  Are you getting a lot of people who want them on their houses?  Are you getting businesses?  More so, people looking to set up farms?

Robert:  Yeah, the main customer group at the moment is domestic, in terms of volume.  And there are people who are saying “Look, I have a little bit of money saved up. I get nothing for that in the Credit Union.  Nothing for that if I put it on deposit.   What I can do with this money is I can buy electricity for the future.  Electricity is probably got the [inaudible] price with the carbon taxes and one thing or another.  So, they feel if they put solar panels on their roof, whether it’s a simple installation for around about 5000 euros and they get a 1400 grant. Or whether it’s something bigger with a battery which might cost them twice that. People are investing in solar if you like.

Maryanne: Okay. And I see you’re working in a number of schools then as well at the moment and around the place as well.

Robert:  That’s the most exciting project.  I’ve been very lucky to work with the Tipperary energy agency and friends of the earth on the solar for school’s project.  They called it “Hands up for Solar!” which was the friends of the earth’s campaign. We have got 5 schools to do. One in Northline which is to be the first one in Dublin. But the most exciting one of all is in Inishmaan on the iron islands.  And I went there last Friday for the first time in my life and boy, what a place.

Maryanne: It’s beautiful isn’t it?

Robert: Absolutely fantastic! Yeah, and welcoming people. And people are very into green technology. So, it was a great day for me to talk to the school children to measure up and of course taking great care to measure up and of course taking great care to measure up because we’re not going to find an electrical wholesaler on Inishmaan.

Mary Anne:  Hopefully not.

Robert:  So, we got to go over everything we need when we go and install.

Mary Anne:  All right.  Okay. And this – the battery you’re telling me about.  The Sonnen battery people will be able to get that now.  It might be a little bit pricey at the moment.  But then you were talking about the – you were talking about the virtues of the grants that are available now.

Robert: Yeah.  We’ve got a really forward-thinking approach, I think, from sustainable energy authority.  You know, they’ve got a specific grant for batteries, and that’s really the idea that if you have solar in your house, SEAI would like you to consume everything you make and not spill it back to the grid. So, the batteries are an important part of that. And thus, we’ve got the guys from Sonnen coming over to the show.  They’re arriving in the UK.  Well, actually the installing guys – the stand builders are here today putting the stand-up.  But we’ve got some guys coming over from Bavaria on Monday to help us.  So, they’ll be the technical experts if some of us from the UK and Ireland can’t help you.

Mary Anne:  All right, okay. So, you’ll be able to find – oh sorry – people will be able to find you out there, at the ploughing championships for the three days anyway.  For Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Robert:  yes.  I’m working the 3 days – stand 585.  We’re closer to the yellow car park down the bottom I’ve learned.  We’re actually pretty close to the catering which is great.  If you want a cup of coffee or burger.

Mary Anne:  It’s okay.  You must be getting queries from people all the time about, you know, the benefits really of solar energy.  is it cheaper?  It is cheaper obviously in the long run.  it must be.

Robert: Well, yeah.  It’s a very straight forward story. you’re paying around about 20 cents for electricity during the daytime in this country. And we can substitute that electricity with an investment say – of around – if you’re investing 5000 and then maybe getting a grant off that so it’s taking you back to 3 and a half.  That will pay itself back on that electricity that you saved in around about 7 years. So, it’s a good story.  Nothing’s for nothing. You have to make an investment but you’re certainly getting that money back pretty quickly.

Mary Anne: and there’s a great – you have a great website as well coz I was looking at it before we came on air there. And you can have a look at the projects that you’ve already completed and all about the company and stuff like that and where to get in touch when as well.

Robert:  Yeah, have a look at We’ve got a solar calculator on there.  So, if you put in your address and your EIR code and some idea of the electricity that you’re using.  We can start to think about a recommendation for the right size.  We want you to have the right size PV system for your use.  We’re all different.  You know, some of us are doing washing twice a day. some of us have a heat pump in the house or these new technologies. Some of us have an electric car.  So, for those people they’ll need more – more electricity. So, we’d like to know a bit more about our customers and then respond with the right offer.

Mary Anne:  Fantastic!  Really, really interesting, Robert.  And I wish you the best of luck with the Ploughing Fair for the next week.

Robert: Thanks, Mary Anne.  I think I may have to take a rest for a weekend in preparation.

Mary Anne:  I’d say you might and the weekend after that as well. But Robert Goss, from Solar electric.  Thanks very much for calling in and of course as he said people can find a little bit more about you online or just call to you at the ploughing Block 3, Row 25, stand 585 and we’ll get that out again if people miss.


Future of Energy on Eco Eye

We were delighted to part of the discussion on the Future of Energy on RTE’s Eco Eye back in 2016



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