Why your most valuable energy source might be your parking lot

The world is in dire need of sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions – and solar energy is the light at the end of the tunnel. It is now cost-competitive with traditional energy and gives access to clean and free energy renewable with each dawn. Solar energy is the driving force behind all life on earth and it’s time for us to get with the program.

A provider’s problem

When alternative energy is your game, the problem remains illustrating to clients the impact they can make by giving solar energy the green light. It’s tough to imagine an overhaul of energy solutions without having anything by which to measure it.

When we began actively driving solar power as a viable alternative energy solution – and one we could provide, finance and implement quickly and efficiently – it became clear that although we knew the proof was in the product, we’d have to walk the walk with customers first. If we didn’t believe enough to rely on solar power as much as we expected our clients to, what right did we have to ask them to buy into it? Trust is earned.

Incubating the idea

So we earned it by converting our Samrand Head Office parking lot into a living, light-absorbing and power-producing grid-tied solar space. The panels would provide energy for operations, as well as double-up as shade to shield employees’ cars from the Gauteng sun. From the first panel laid, we used entirely our own resources – gaining critical insights into what clients would experience when they fitted their own solar systems.

Critical take-outs

The learnings were innumerable. Among them, the need for scaled and suited solutions. A parking lot is ideal real estate for solar energy infrastructure, but every client will have a unique parking lot – or warehouse or rooftop – that’s purpose built for their own products or services. This exposes the need for truly personalised and considered service from a solar energy provider – one who’s willing to take the time to examine the core needs of the business and not retrofit an existing model or solution.

Although it’s critical and should be prioritised by every local business, transforming to a ‘green’ energy operation is a commitment. Businesses should ensure they can take a modular approach (if required) and phase the project, if they don’t foresee being able to implement all at once. Building by building, lot by lot.

Change management is essential if employees are required to adapt in some way to the new solution (which we believe they should be encouraged to do). If installation is going to cause serious inconvenience, frustrations can be alleviated by (a) providing an alternative that eases the process and (b) getting buy-in from staff about the broader impact of greener energy – what it’s doing for the business, the economy, the country and the planet.

Match capacity with sustainable pursuits

This last point is linked to perhaps the most critical take-out of the solar car park makeover. Not every CEO, CFO, MD, or manager will have the capacity to drive green energy solutions themselves. But by partnering with a provider that is passionate about sustainable energy as the driver of business growth, they’ll achieve the same goal in the end.

Just as the light switch in boardroom draws on power provided by the sun, so too do we rely on our clients to motivate us in seeking out more intelligent and future-proof technology and innovation. We’re passionate about growing local business because without it, we wouldn’t be able to chase new solutions that create better business functionality.

Not only did the conversion from parking to power reveal valuable insights for the implementation process, it’s also been a working case study for the impact clients can make in moving to greener energy. Since switching to solar energy, we’ve managed to cut electricity costs by just over R160 000, while effectively alleviating the grid of pressure.

What began as the transformation of the Sizwe parking lot became a lesson about who we are and why we do what we do. We know it’s our shared responsibility to develop and offer effective, sustainable solutions that not only assist in relieving pressure on the South African power grid and fund greener alternatives, but also provide the power needed to keep local businesses thriving – and the economy growing.

CREDIT: Rudi Fourie, Sizwe IT Group Fibre and Facility Management

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