The solar industry presents marketing professionals with unique challenges; poorly-educated consumers, misleading mainstream media, anti-renewable campaigners, policy shifts and anti-dumping troubles have all contributed to an ever-changing outlook.

The Solar Power Portal Award judges shortlisted the following communication campaigns because they successfully utilised all available channels to successfully achieve their objectives.

Hoo Solar, Abundance Generation/BNRG Renewables

In order to market a new type of solar investment to a wider audience that had previously been possible, BNRG Renewables partnered with Abundance Generation, an online community investment platform.

The platform allowed anyone in the community or wider UK public to directly invest in solar projects for a minimum of £5. The Hoo Solar project raised the required funding (£385,000) in record time, from 300 people across the UK with people of all ages (18-80) investing from £5 to £50,000.

The project used a number of marketing channels to help bring investors together. The majority of marketing activity was through PR, with some fantastic articles looking at crowdfunding, solar and Abundance. Articles were published in The Independent, The Guardian and on Solar Power Portal. PR activities were combined with a strong social media presence through Facebook and Twitter. 

Life Shines Brighter, SMA Solar UK Ltd

Forgoing the traditional B2B approach adopted by the solar industry, SMA UK decided to employ B2C marketing. Recognising that current inverter communications were saturated with overly-technical jargon, SMA UK elected to use a tone of voice completely removed from technical language that allowed the end user to better engage with the communications. 

As a result, SMA UK created Life Shines Brighter – a simple concept built on the premise that with more electricity to use and sell householders can enjoy the things in life that really matter.

In addition, the company recognised that installers were facing shrinking profits and therefore advertising budgets, so SMA UK decided to create a suite of materials that could be used by all installers with their household customers.

As part of the Life Shines Brighter campaign SMA UK also developed a schools programme with Keystage 1 & 2 adventure book highlighting how PV can be the renewable choice for future generations.  

Powering the Sheep Shearing, Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd/Firefly Solar/Royal Ulster Agricultural Society

How do you communicate successfully with a market that is totally unfamiliar with your product? That’s the exact challenge that faced Lightsource Renewable Energy trying to convey the benefits of solar farms in Northern Ireland.

As the agricultural industry was the company’s main target, Lightsource Renewable Energy decided to create a working ‘mini solar farm’ which would then power the Sheep Shearing Area at Northern Ireland’s largest agricultural show, the Balmoral Show. 

The mini solar farm provided a real and tangible experience for visitors and addressed many questions like the viability, noise and glare of solar. As a result, the company received over 150 leads over the three days and anticipates that its Northern Ireland team will be kept busy for the next two years. 

Sevor Farm, AEE-Renewables

When a local manufacturing plant wanted to expand on its existing 4.5MW solar farm, AEE-Renewables was acutely aware of local misgivings towards further developments occurring in the area.

South Marston, a unique town nestled on the outskirts of Swindon, retains a unique village status, but faces becoming a suburb of Swindon. After extensive consultation with locals, AEE Renewables recognised locals’ concerns and scaled down the initial proposed project capacity from 12-13MW to 9MW to allow an agricultural buffer zone between the development and the village. The solar developer also offered local residents a discounted energy tariff from partner Good Energy if the proposal gained planning permission.  

The project demonstrated a successful use of a range of communication channels to actively engage with all local stakeholders to ensure that the solar development was welcomed by the local community.

Tweet for Heat, Viridian Solar

The renewable heat market had been given short shrift from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in recent years, with the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive beset by numerous delays and the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) dwarfed by other subsidies on offer for other technologies, the market had ground to a standstill.

Stuart Elmes brought together a Twitter movement of solar thermal stakeholders who all tweeted Greg Barker to urge for more support. The hashtag #TweetforHeat was spread around various notable tweeters, who picked up on the simplicity of the campaign.

The campaign caught Barker’s attention and resulted in a doubling of RHPP payments.