Solar’s sunny side

2011-10-03 00:00

THE year 2008 was a year of change for Robbie Cameron. It was the year that South Africa went through the electricity crisis and many houses and factories experienced load shedding for the first time.

Cameron was a cost accountant for Dunlop in Durban and he was at the stage where he was looking for a new opportunity, which the power crisis introduced in the form of a business opportunity — he and his brother-in- law opened a shop offering a range of solar-powered products in Pietermaritzburg.

“We knew there would be a growing demand for solar power and that until South Africa had solved the electricity crisis more people would be looking at solar for energy supply. It’s the obvious choice in a country where we have a good climate.”

Cameron says that people are looking for more renewable sources of energy­ now that the focus has turned to the state of the planet and the whole issue of global warming.

“People are becoming more green aware.” He said that at first many of his products were sourced and imported from overseas, but in the past two years there have been more local producers of green-friendly products.

He said that many clients have bought generators as backup for when the power goes off, especially in the industrial areas and in Hilton. However, while he used to stock generators he doesn’t any longer as he feels that they are not a real solution.

Most of his clients come in looking for answers on “how to get off the grid”.

“I do have a few dedicated green people who are very environmentally conscious. But the majority of people are just annoyed with the service and the fees they are being charged by Eskom­.”

But as attractive as it sounds to get off the grid, it comes at a huge price. To be independent from the municipal service providers would cost an average household upwards of R300 000. So most people start off by investing in green-friendly accessories, that save on their electricity bills.

Cameron sells solar-powered flood lights, LED bulbs, solar-powered panels that charge cellphone batteries, a solar-powered lantern for camping and a solar charger that charges AA and AAA batteries.

Many farmers have bought his solar­-panel chargers for their farm workers to stay in touch with them when they are on remote parts of the farm. These small solar panels can also charge two energy-efficient light bulbs.

Cameron also sells solar panels and the inverters that change the solar electric current into AC. His accounting background comes in handy as he calculates how many watts (solar panels) are needed to run household appliances.

Cameron’s business has grown by word of mouth and more people are getting into alternative sources of energy.

“Sometimes I hear of new ideas from clients and I have learnt a lot from the Internet.”

The plus side of going green is that prices have dropped in the past two years. Like cellphones the prices for solar products are becoming cheaper as more people are supporting the concept.

To check out the products visit Midlands Solar Sales at 15 Victoria Centre or visit the website www.midlandsso lar.co.za

trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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