Solar Panel Installer & Business Owner
Information about Andy Tanner
||Plug Into The Sun
"As a solar panel installer, what I love most is being able to turn to a customer and say "you are now plugged into the sun".
I'm Andy Tanner, and I run Plug Into The Sun, one of the first businesses to install solar panels to the domestic market. We fit solar panels for people at home, we’ve also done a number of jobs for schools and we’ve installed solar for local businesses and organisations. Once I’d had the idea that this was what I wanted to do, I set about getting practical experience - I trained as an electrician and went to work with a roofing contractor. I’ve always been passionate about renewable energy so this job enables me to make a direct difference. The best bit is when we’ve finished and I can turn to a customer and say "you are now plugged into the sun”!
Tell us about your job – where do you work and what do you do?I run my own business, Plug Into The Sun. We are based in Cornwall and were one of the first companies to install all kinds of photovoltaic solar panels.
What inspired you to do what you do? How did you get into it, did you have a plan?I have degree in Environmental Technology and have always been passionate about protecting the planet and renewable energy. Before I set up the company I was working in education - out and about telling people about the benefits of renewable energy, and trying to persuade policy and decision makers to use and promote it. In the end I thought I might as well get on and start a business myself, so I did!
Why is your job meaningful? Both to you personally, and in how it benefits the wider world in terms of climate change and other environmental challenges.My job means a great deal to me and it’s a big part of my identity. I love running my own business – but I couldn’t work as hard if it was something else, I can only do this because I really believe in what I am offering my customers.
We install a new solution to greener energy every day. The solar panels we use pay for themselves in 2 years and have a 25-year guarantee, so I know that what I install will last. Most of the panels we install have been made at factories powered by solar energy. The panels plug people into the sun, reduce their carbon footprint and mean that people no longer have to pay energy bills.
Many jobs in this sector are very new, how long has your job existed?I started the business in 2004. We were one of the first companies to start installing solar; today there are a lot more.
What personal qualities do you think have got you where you are today?I’m very stubborn, I don’t take no for an answer, and always find a way to make things happen - then I get on and do it. I love nature; I go for a walk or surf and that connection to the natural world gives me the energy and inspiration to do what I do.
What are the essential skills for your job?Good communication skills - that means both listening and talking - but manual skills are the main thing for this. I trained as an electrician and took an apprenticeship in roofing – these provide essential tradesman skills for installing the panels. As for running the business, I have lots of energy, and believe there is always a solution and that nothing is impossible.
What qualifications do you have? Are these typical for people in your role?I have a degree in Environmental Technology, a Part P electrician qualification, and I took a roofing apprenticeship to gain experience of how to work safely on rooftops.
For installing solar panels, apprentice electricians or people with an NVQ in roofing are really employable to me. I am interested in people with practical skills and apprenticeship experience.
For running a business it’s a different set of skills again. Part of my degree was business studies, which gave me the bigger picture, but with the day-to-day stuff I think you can make it up as you go along.
What do you think most helped you get where you are now?Experience is everything for my business, knowledge of the products available and how to fit them is essential. That has come with experience, working with others and knowing my field.
Please describe a typical working dayMy working day is quite varied. Sometimes I spend time in the office keeping on top of the administration, sometimes I could be out on site doing a survey or I might be fitting the electrics on a job. I may spend the day on a roof fitting panels, or I could be meeting new clients and quoting jobs. These days I employ people to do specific tasks and am able to dip in and out when needed.
I work from about 8am to 6pm then on into the evenings depending on what I’m doing. I tend to work as many hours as required.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do? I love being able to say to my customers “you’re now plugged into the sun - no more bills and no more carbon emissions”. It’s great to be able to provide a service that meets people’s needs. What I install is lifelong and extremely sustainable so I feel I’m doing my bit for the world and my customers are too.
Managing people can be tricky sometimes. It’s tough trying to keep everyone happy, employed, and trained to the right level.
What kind of people do you meet through your work or do you work alone?I employ roofers, builders, electricians and a technical director. The customers we work for are very interesting and really care about our service and protecting the environment.
Do you feel well paid for what you do or is it not about the money?It’s not about the money but I do feel rewarded for what I do. I’ve lived in vans, tents, and for a great deal of my life I didn’t earn that much. Today I can afford to meet the bills and enjoy life - that’s important too.
Finally, what do you know now about jobs, careers and the future that you wish you’d known when you were at school?You can do anything you want but everything you do has a consequence, think about the implications of what you do, do what brings joy rather than anything else. Take time to enjoy life, watch the sunset, ride the wave and drink the beer!
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