Greenhouse Pioneer – Susannah Wood, Solarcentury

Solarcentury is the UK’s leading solar company and has played a big part of the evolution that has made solar PV the attractive investment it is today. They’ve put solar on a record number of sites and have won multiple awards for their product innovation and continue to grow worldwide.

We caught up with Susannah Wood, CMO at Solarcenturyabout the company’s mission, their shiny new Sunstation and Albert Einstein…

Tell us about your company – what’s your mission?

I work for Solarcentury – the UK’s leading solar company. We’re in business for a purpose: to make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change. We want to make solar accessible and attractive for all, in the UK and globally.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by both the potential for solar as a technology and the unbelievable rate at which this is being recognised and exploited around the world. When I joined Solarcentury in 2007, solar was considered pretty marginal everywhere except Germany. Now, deployment is growing by about 500% since 2010 with significant growth in markets such as the UK, the US, China. It’s transformative and recognition is growing for solar as a mature technology. It also poses an existential threat to the incumbent power generators, and the opportunity for solar to have such a big impact on the energy landscape is exciting.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

It’s certainly not my personal achievement: I’m incredibly proud of Solarcentury’s growth in revenue and global expansion. We’ve grown more than ten-fold since I joined. And we are now building solar projects on three continents.

What are the challenges you face?

Political whim and bureaucratic inertia. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not talking about my company!

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

We’re introducing a new residential building-integrated PV product to market (Sunstation) in the UK and Holland initially. The whole project is motivating and deeply satisfying because of the potential for Sunstation to change the face of domestic solar. However, it’s fair to say that I’m irrationally excited by the configuration tool and installation guide we’ve developed to make the specification and installation as simple and fool-proof as possible. We figured out that this is an area that no company has thought about properly, to the significant detriment of installers who lose precious time as a result. Installers are going to love it!

Where do you want to take your company next?

International markets are really important to us. We’ve now completed solar projects in Panama, Colombia, Kenya and South Africa. Our pipeline extends throughout Europe, Africa and Latin America.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

Go solar. Encourage your local school to go solar. Encourage your employer to go solar!

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?

Environmentally, I’d want to ban fracking and ditch nuclear development. The latter would save me a lot of cash, so clearly that would go to renewables. Socially, I’d want a living rather than minimum wage. Companies that make profit, avoid tax and whose staff are supported via benefits? I can’t get my head round that lunacy. Fortunately, Solarcentury is committed to the living wage.

What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across?

Jeremy Leggett has taken a new approach to sharing his amazing insight into the front lines of the carbon war. His latest book; The Winning of the Carbon War is being published as he writes it with the final chapter being the outcome of climate talks in Paris, December 2015. Jeremy’s writing style is great. The book is a cross between a thriller, a gossip column and a diary. It’s a gripping live chronicle.

Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?

I’m hoping the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change is going to be a game changer particularly given the number of catholics in the US House of Representatives: ‘The failure of global summits on the environment makes it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.’ That’s speaking truth to power!

And on a much more practical note, we need to be eating more plants and less meat. I think Anna Jones’ book: A Modern Way to Eat is the most delicious cookbook I own.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

I’m obsessed with podcasts. Some of my favourites are: Wiretapped, This American Life, Radiolab, The Moth, Reply All.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s more important to be influential than it is to have authority; authority is something you need to be given whereas influence comes from within. Learn how to be influential.

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?

Either Einstein for describing the photovoltaic effect or Al Gore for his eloquence and influence.

If you’d like to find out more about Solarcenturyvisit their website,follow them on Twitterortheir LinkedIn.