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Where are they now? Exploring Calco Timber and Trusses' Transition to Solar Energy

It was mid-2018, Woolworths had just announced it would reduce the level of plastic packaging in its stores and New South Wales was experiencing a soon-to-be declared drought. Meanwhile, 3rd generation timber manufacturing business, Calco Timber and Trusses had just installed a 175kW solar system partnering with Choice Energy for their 20 acre site in South Geelong, Victoria, as part of a sweeping range of measures to improve their sustainability and lower their costs.

Six years later, after the system has output in excess of 1264 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, we caught up with Frame & Truss Manufacturer’s Association of Australia Ltd member (FTMA) , Calco Timber and Trusses Director Christine Flanagan, about the business's move to solar and how things are fairing these days.

Calco About fam

What challenges/problems made you consider solar for your business?

We acknowledged the volatility of the electricity market and understood that it was going to be an ongoing area of increasing costs. We recognised this was a cost the business couldn’t really regulate if we kept doing the same thing of paying our electricity bill and being exposed to the energy market.

Were you hesitant about the move to solar? What gave you confidence about making the switch?

We were hesitant - at the time it was a significant capital outlay for the business, but the payback period is what gave us confidence. Once the solar system would be turned on, we knew we’d pay the same amount of money we’d been paying previously for however many years, but once our solar repayments were complete, we’d have the benefits of lower electricity bills.

Calco Solar Roof

Were there any trends in your industry that drove you to make the move to solar/clean energy?

I wasn't familiar with many businesses in our industry who were moving to solar, but recently I’ve had more businesses ask about our experience and what it’s like and it’s fantastic that I can talk really positively about it. Because of our positive experience with the first installation, we also installed solar on our wholesale timber business in Laverton too.

What were you looking for in a solution? Was there anything that stood out to you about partnering with Choice?

We went through a process of looking at various options and we landed on Choice Energy. The payback figures presented by Choice Energy made a convincing argument.

Has solar provided your business with financial benefits?

The thing that has been good is knowing the cost of what our electricity costs would be, which has been fairly stable for our business especially as we know the energy market fluctuates so much. We’ve protected ourselves from bill shock and unknown costs coming through.

Calco Aerial Shot

What noticable improvements have you seen to your energy bills?

After initially installing solar, our electricity bills dropped by 50% with the remaining 50% balance paying off the system. Our energy usage has increased over time too, but once we paid off the system, our bills are about half of what they were which is a substantial financial benefit for the business.

How has your experience been working with Choice Energy? Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We worked closely with the team at Choice Energy and the information provided was great and the communication was seamless. The installation was very easy and well done. 7 years down the track from first discussing it, it hums away in the background and we have no issues with it. No news is good news. I know I can reach out to Lachlan and the team at Choice Energy to raise anything.

    Learn more about all the fantastic work Calco Timber and Trusses are doing as part of their sustainability mission here.

    Read the case study here.

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