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Solar firm plans to ramp up installations

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Solar intentions: Stuart Kriendler, left, and Stratton Hatfield of BE Solar

Green energy firm BE Solar is at the cutting edge of solar power — but the firm is 80-plus years old and a pioneer in the field of clean power.

Part of the Bermuda Engineering Company, created in 1935, the founder Gordon Burland pioneered the first wind turbine on the island and also designed a solar water heater, which never went into production due to the start of the Second World War.

Now Mr Burland’s successors have kept his spirit of innovation alive with plans to install around 500 kilowatts of solar energy in Bermuda this year alone and to turn the island into a world beacon for the promotion of alternative energy.

Stratton Hatfield, BE Solar sales consultant, said the firm had just launched a new website, which includes tips on how to save money on power.

He added: “It’s not just a space to learn about our products, but for people to learn about how to save energy — it’s looking very good these days and we’re happy with that.”

Stuart Kriendler, managing director and a solar specialist, added: “We want to empower our customers, educating them in things they can do which will save them money without costing them any money.”

Mr Kriendler said that it was estimated that solar power accounted for about 2 per cent of Bermuda’s electricity output, so there was huge potential for the industry.

He added: “Germany has the highest rate of solar installations per capita of anywhere in the world, so there is a lot of room for more growth here in Bermuda.”

Mr Hatfield said that company had installed a total of 530 kilowatts of solar energy on the island, a total of 1,800 solar panels, over the last six years, which reduced the number of barrels of oil imported by more than 1,000.

The company, which now employs ten people, has also notched up the largest solar hot water installation, in place at the new wing of the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and was the first company in Bermuda to use electric vehicles in its fleet.

Mr Hatfield added: “Another thing we are really proud of is that we’ve helped our customer base save more than $1 million in energy savings.”

And Mr Hatfield said: “One of the benefits of investing in solar is keeping the dollar in Bermuda rather than it going out of the country to oil — we’re proud of that too.

“Our main focus is to make Bermuda stronger and more secure with the highest quality energy solutions.”

Now the firm is looking at a link-up with electric car giant Tesla to bring its ground-breaking Powerwall batteries to Bermuda, which offer a way to store excess solar power and allow companies and homes to be self-sufficient in energy.

Mr Hatfield said: “We’ve already installed some battery systems. We designed a system using a salt water-based battery. It’s completely environmentally friendly and can last 20 years.”

Mr Kriendler studied at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, California, a US leader in the field, and gained experience of energy conservation and efficiency and renewable energy after he graduated with a business degree from Canada’s York University.

He said that the firm used hi-tech solar panels made by SolarWorld, which has been established for 40 years and builds its heavy duty components in Germany and the US exclusively.

Mr Kriendler said: “They have had panels that have been working for 30 years. In Bermuda, with the high humidity and corrosion, it’s the obvious choice. They have a 30-year warranty, which is 20 per cent more than the standard.”

He added that Bermudians opted for solar power to save money on high power charges, as well as to protect the environment.

“The bottom line for the majority of people is they need to save money. And a lot of people are environmentally minded — closet environmentalists. Now they can come out of the closet,” said Mr Kriendler.

“We come across a fair number of customers who say it’s the right thing to do for the environment and it stimulates the local economy, but they want to save money as well.”

Mr Hatfield added: “As a country, we see Bermuda as a place to have a world showcase. People see value in saving money, but a lot of them are interested in reducing our environmental impact as well.”

The firm has also struck a deal with HSBC Bermuda to provide financing for solar projects to help spread the cost.

Mr Hatfield said: “We’re looking forward to working with a broader sector of the community and it will reduce their cost of living, which a lot of people need right now.”

The ten-strong team at BE Solar, which aims to install 500 kilowatts of clean green solar panels in homes and businesses across the island this year