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On a mission to make a positive difference with solar

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Doing good: Sheelagh Cooper, of Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda, left, with Claire Smith and Nick Hutchings of Sunny Side Solar, and Jason Powell, board member of Meals on Wheels. Sunny Side Solar’s first charity install is a 40-panel system at Meals on Wheels (Photograph supplied)

Making cost less of a barrier for people who want to use solar energy, and helping charities to benefit from electricity generated by rays of sunshine, are part of the mission of Sunny Side Solar.

Claire Smith and Nick Hutchings teamed up to make a difference and to give back to the community, and that is now happening.

Their non-profit company has just installed a free solar system for Meals on Wheels to reduce the organisation’s electricity bills. Similar projects will follow.

Mr Hutchings spent 48 years working in marine contracting before retiring after the island hosted the America’s Cup in 2017. He then took an interest in solar energy, which was something he wanted for his home. That led him to use his own skills and gain additional training with qualifications so that he could do his own solar installation.

Sunny Side Solar has a business model with low overheads that cover the cost of resources, tapping into the competitive North American wholesale solar market and being able to offer solar systems with steep discounts.

That has meant having flexibility to custom design systems according to individual needs, while still generating about a 15 per cent profit that goes to Habitat for Humanity, Solar, Bermuda, to provide “solar for low income households struggling to pay their electricity bill, registered charities and important civic institutions”.

Mr Hutchings said that regardless of whether you believe in climate change or not, the data shows oceans are getting warmer and the depth of the warm water is increasing, this in turn causes tropical storms and hurricanes that are more powerful and wetter.

He said that with such dynamic weather patterns evolving, Bermuda's remote location leaves it exposed, and lessons learnt from other places show that diversifying energy supply is useful to quickly recover if a hurricane severely damages energy infrastructure.

"So my mission, and the mission of Sunny Side Solar, is to put as much solar on roofs as possible and as quickly as possible," he said.

Mr Hutchings is retired, while Ms Smith is semi-retired. Both are Bermudian and have known one another since their schooldays. In addition they were on the BEST (Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce) energy committee.

They then decided to found Sunny Side Solar. Mr Hutchings said: “Claire is an extremely successful businesswoman with experience of wholesale, importing and retail. We make a good team.”

The company works to put solar within the reach of more people, while profit from the company is directed at helping others through Habitat for Humanity, Bermuda.

Sunny Side Solar’s first charity solar install was on the Meals for Wheels building. It was able to gift a 40-panel system to lower the organisation’s Belco bill and its carbon footprint. The next charity install will be a 27-panel system at the Women’s Transitional Living Centre.

“We chose to use what would be profit to go out and install more solar,” Mr Hutchings said.

Ms Smith said: “We are both passionate about the concept, about the environment, and helping people to cut their electricity bill.

“I’d had success in my business (career), so making money was not the motivation; at a certain point you want to give back to society.”

Sunny Side Solar is also launching a DIY solar service.

This is aimed at homeowners with experience in the construction industry or who are proficient in DIY home projects. Sunny Side Solar will design, permit [handle the planning application] and source a fully warranted, solar system to meet the needs of the house, with detailed instructions on how to install it.

The company said it will oversee the installation and commissioning of the system and help the owner apply for Belco interconnection.

For those who don’t want to install the system themselves, Sunny Side Solar can recommend independent installers.

For more information, visit sunnysidesolar.org

Sunny Side Solar has installed a 40-panel solar power system at Meals on Wheels (Photograph supplied)
Sunny Side Solar has installed a 40-panel solar power system at Meals on Wheels (Photograph supplied)

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Published April 27, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 28, 2021 at 8:12 am)

On a mission to make a positive difference with solar

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