Solar energy has moved into the spotlight of late, making celebrity appearances on the Channel 4 show The Secret Millionaire as well as BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den. Following success on these mainstream programmes, businessman Paul Williams and entrepreneur Ben Way have formed solar initiative Freetricity, while Ploughcroft Solar’s Managing Director Chris Hopkins secured £120,000 of investment to inject into his installation company.

By utilising an investment fund, Williams and Way, who met on The Secret Millionaire, will offer grants of up to £150,000 to public and private organisations under the Freetricity model.

Solar panels will be installed for UK organisations on a first-come, first-served basis and, like other rent-a-roof schemes, the Freetricity business model will work by installing the solar panels for free, allowing the company to use the solar energy while Freetricity takes the feed-in tariff payments.

One of the scheme’s listed backers, Octopus Investments, has already confirmed its intention to add £30 million to the pot. Freetricity is confident other investors will be quick to come forward, extending the investment amount to a possible £500 million.

Williams said the Freetricity offer “Will be especially attractive to those who are interested in reducing their carbon footprint but concerned about the cost of doing so.

“We hope that this deal will allow them to see that solar is a genuinely viable alternative to traditional energy sources.”

The scheme, also backed by developer LightSource Renewables and energy efficiency solutions company Anesco, is expected to see a great amount of success since the company owners appeared on Channel 4.

Meanwhile, Ploughcroft Solar is expected to expand across the UK with help from the £120,000 investment its Managing Director, Chris Hopkins secured from Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis in exchange for a 25% stake in his business.


Image: Ploughcroft Solar

Speaking about his experience in the Den, Hopkins said he was very pleased with the Dragons he managed to tame:

“Apart from their excellent reputation in the world of business, Deborah and Theo are trusted household names.

This was very important to me, as I want Ploughcroft to grow to become the household name of choice for solar and renewable energy installations. We’re one of the leading solar installers for the UK and I want our name to be synonymous with solar, just like big brand names are with other household industries.”

Deborah said, “I had already identified the renewable energy market as an exciting place to do business, not least because it combines doing the right thing with great returns. Chris clearly demonstrated that he was deeply knowledgeable and an industry leader, not just ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. He was also obviously someone who gets stuff done and cares about his customers…seemed like the perfect fit and so I went for it!”

Hopkins will now work with Deborah and Theo to drive his solar installation business forward and expand across the UK.