Tindo Solar: Australia’s Homegrown Solar Panel
With its abundant sunshine Australia seems like the logical place to establish a solar power manufacturing industry. But a combination of stiff overseas competition, lack of scale and erratic government policy have seen both BP and Silex Solar give up on manufacturing solar panels in Australia.
Now the baton has been taken up by Adrian Ferraretto. After selling Solar Shop Australia in 2010, Adrian and three partners built a brand new plant to manufacture innovative solar panels in Adelaide. Tindo Solar takes its name from the word for “sun” in the local Kaurna Warra Aboriginal language.
Focus on quality
“Most of the funding came from Adrian and the proceeds of selling Solar Shop,” says Richard Inwood, Tindo’s Manager of People and Business and one of the partners. “With his training in mechanical engineering he had long felt that a high quality, Australian designed and manufactured solar panel should be able to succeed.”
Quality is at the forefront of Tindo’s thinking. “We feel that a 25 year warranty should mean something in reality. With that in mind, we’ve sourced the very best components we can,” Richard continues, “and we are able to deliver solar power systems that are competitive on price with the higher end systems currently on the market.”
Something a bit different
Helping Tindo stand out from the crowd is a different approach to solar systems. Instead of wiring several solar panels in series and then delivering high-voltage DC current to a central inverter, each Tindo solar panel incorporates a micro-inverter. This means each 240 W panel produces 240 volt AC power right at the source. “The micro-inverters utilize thin film capacitors, allowing for an industry-leading 20 year warranty,” notes Richard.
With each panel operating completely independently of the others, Tindo systems offer a degree of flexibility unachievable from standard systems. Individual panels can be oriented in any direction, for example, and as shading of one panel does not affect the output of adjacent panels, Tindo claim a higher total power output than from conventional systems with an equivalent rating. Another benefit is that the performance of each panel can be monitored via the internet or smartphone app and any problems quickly identified.
Richard cites additional reasons for believing Tindo Solar will succeed.
Production is highly automated and the plant has the capacity to produce 70 MW of solar panels (300,000 panels) each year – sufficient to supply about 25-30% of the Australian market at current levels of demand. “We don’t expect to utilise all of that capacity, but if we are offered a number of large community or business installation opportunities we will be able to supply them,” Richard observes. From its initial workforce of just three of the partners, Richard expects to grow to 30 employees during 2012.
There are 60 installation partners around Australia, and the Australian-made label is a definite advantage. “We were selling panels before we were fully operational and even without any proper marketing material,” says Richard. “Just the mention of a quality, Aussie made module presented by an experienced solar power sales person is often all it takes.”
Tindo aims to be transparent in its operations. Visitors to the factory are welcome, and webcams are planned so that customers anywhere will be able to see their panels being produced.
Acting on concerns
A significant factor in getting the business off the ground is the environmental awareness and concern shared by the partners. Adrian’s track record is evident in the way in which he built up Solar Shop, and Richard is an accredited presenter of the Al Gore climate change talks. He has delivered more than 25 talks just in the past ten months.
Tindo Solar pursues a number of environmental initiatives within the business, including water and energy efficiency. Naturally, a large array of Tindo solar panels will be added to the roof once production is in full swing.
Eye on export
Although the initial focus is clearly on the Australian market, Tindo is keen to pursue opportunities to export panels. “We have developed a truly amazing product,” says Richard. “There is no reason why Tindo Solar can’t reverse the current trend and export from Australia.”
Expressions of interest have already been received from New Zealand and India, so it may not be long before many more people are learning a new name for the sun.