Rays of light beam over the Coffs Coast.
Rays of light beam over the Coffs Coast. Bruce Thomas

Solar's ray of hope

SOLAR power companies on the Coffs Coast are doing it tough, as the local industry struggles to survive.

But one local company is bucking the trend.

Urunga-based SI Clean Energy, formerly Solar Inverters, has taken over two other niche companies and is expanding into large new premises it has bought at 15 Isles Drive.

The managing director of the family company, Peter Bulanyi, said they would be carrying out major construction and refurbishment on the site, including extensions, before they moved all their local operations into the new premises. However, some staff would move in within weeks.

The company leases four different premises and the Isles Drive factory will allow them to consolidate their operations.

SI Clean Energy has also acquired two sets of intellectual property rights for new products which they will be manufacturing locally.

One is a range of off-grid inverters for use on caravans, mobile homes and boats.

The other is energy monitoring and energy managing equipment.

This cloud-based solution uses meters, dials and graphs to show how much energy is being used, where it is being used and when it is being used and can display it all on a website.

Mr Bulanyi said his company, which is a national wholesaler of solar inverters and also has offices interstate, had a completely different business model to recent start-ups in the solar industry. “For some years we have been vertically integrating our company,” he said.

Mr Bulanyi described as ‘complete nonsense’ a recent statement at a Coffs Harbour forum by Federal Coalition spokeswoman Bronwyn Bishop that the renewable energy industry could not survive without government funding.

“We have just completed the supply of converters for the one megawatt Alice Springs solar farm, the largest solar farm in Australia which is very, very cost-effective against diesel generators and other forms of conventional electricity.

“(Clean energy) is very much part of the mix in remote areas and it will not be long until it is part of the mainstream mix,” Mr Bulanyi said.

But he said with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal not due to report to the NSW Government on a fair price for net exported electricity until April 2012 and the government then having to make a decision, the industry would see the disappearance of some really good firms as well as some not so well-regarded operations.

“No business can survive 12 months with no orders,” he said.

Clean Energy Council chief Matthew Warren said yesterday’s reports that the cost of solar energy was cheaper than that of coal-fired electricity were premature and inaccurate and analysts expected the falling cost of solar would meet the rising cost of coal to achieve grid-parity between 2015 and 2018.

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