THE renewable energy boom has boosted growth at a Teesside electrical installation firm.
AEL Systems, which installs electrical, fire safety and security products, has seen annual revenues rise to £1.5m since moving into the solar power market - a far cry from the £50,000 it first generated in 2004.
The firm believes that solar work could boost turnover by another 40% as more homeowners and businesses invest in energy-saving devices.
The Government wants to boost take-up of solar energy systems in a bid to improve Britain’s carbon footprint.
But homeowners and firms have been deterred by large up-front costs and the lengthy timeframe for generating a return on the investment.
A typical solar water heating system costs around £4,800, while £12,000 would buy a standard solar electricity system.
AEL said the investment would be worthwhile in the long run.
Director Lee Willis, who has been with the firm since 2004, said: “If you invested £15,000 in a solar system, the return you will get is about £55,000 over 20 years.
“I’m confident of further growth in solar energy.
“We’ve invested a hell of a lot of money (around £10,000) on staff training on solar power installations.
“The country is investing massively in renewable energy to get the carbon footprint down.”
He said the cost of installing renewable energy systems would fall once more homeowners and businesses took advantage of the popular feed-in-tariffs.
The tariffs, which pay householders and companies for generating renewable power and sending it to the national grid, has cut payback times significantly - in some cases by several years.
But the Government has come in for strong criticism after announcing it would cut subsidies for large-scale solar installations by up to 75%.
The move has triggered fears that more feed-in-tariffs for smaller installations could also fall under the axe.
But Mr Willis said tough climate change targets would force ministers to retain attractive subsidies for energy saving devices.
He has positioned AEL for further growth by moving the firm to larger premises at Lingfield Point in Darlington.
For around £6,000 a year, the firm is leasing 1,000 square foot of office space and 1,000 square foot of warehousing space - cutting its annual rental bill by two thirds.
The move is part of a wider plan by Lingfield Point owner Marchday to create a thriving mixed-use eco-village with businesses, homes, sports facilities, a school and healthcare centre.
PLENTY OF ENERGY: Lee Willis (left) of AEL with Eddie Humphries, estate manager at Lingfield Point.