Australia’s only solar panel manufacturer, Adelaide-based company Tindo Solar, has been bought by a local insulation company turned solar installer, Cool or Cosy, as part of a plans to create the largest solar retailer in Australia.
The buyout was announced at Tindo’s Mawson Lakes panel factory on Wednesday, with reports suggesting a deal had been sealed between the two companies last week, giving control of Tindo to Cool or Cosy owner and manager Glenn Morelli.
In an interview with RenewEconomy on Thursday, Morelli said his long-term vision was to “bring quality Australian made solar to the masses” by combining Tindo with another of his businesses, called Solar Rental Company, which installs rooftop solar under rent-to-buy contracts.
This business, which Morelli has owned for around four years now, depends on a good quality solar product that will last the duration of the six-year leasing contracts, and beyond.
“We believe the quality of Tindo is perfect for Solar Rental,” Morelli told RE. “Tindo the only solar company in Australia that really stands for anything,” he added. “In a market where it tends to be a race to the bottom, we actually stand for the opposite.”
In the short term, Morelli’s plans for Tindo are for a small expansion of the Adelaide factory – which, hei says, is “bursting at the seams” – with architect drawings already in the works.
Tindo Solar, which currently employs 25 people in Adelaide and another 20 nationally, was founded in Adelaide in 2011 and has since positioned itself as a high quality local solar panel producer aimed at the upper end of the market.
This has not been an easy path for Tindo, which in 2014 petitioned Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission to investigate claims that the domestic market was being flooded with cheap Chinese PV at prices undercutting domestic sales, or the cost of manufacture.
That same year, the company was provided with up to $20 million in senior debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to locally manufacture, install and own rooftop solar arrays and sell the power to building occupants under a power purchase agreement (PPA).
At the time, former Tindo manager Richard Inwood said the funds were geared at building “sizeable national and international capacity and the manufacturing belts that come with that.” Inwood later resigned from Tindo in October 2014.
The sale of the company by its founder, Adrian Ferraretto, is reported to be a reluctant one, undertaken due to personal circumstances, and not due to problems with the business, which he says is continuing to grow.
“We thought we would have to expand sometime this year because of how busy it was. It shows how Australians are supporting Tindo and supporting Australian-made,” Ferraretto said.
“It’s always been a unique solar company in Australia which stands for something which is manufacturing and manufacturing jobs. Glenn and his team will hopefully take it to the next level.”
Morelli, who started at Cool or Cosy as a sales consultant in 1994 and wound up buying the company, has transformed it into a major South Australia rooftop solar installer with a total of 45 staff (including the Solar Rental Company team) that now also designs battery storage solutions.
On this front, the company has a partnership with the Australian arm of NZ gentailer, Vector Energy, with plans to develop larger scale battery storage projects, along with larger-scale solar.
“They’ve already done in NZ what the (South Australian) premier’s been promoting here,” Morelli told RE, adding that his group of companies, in partnership with Vector, would be submitting a tender for the state’s 100MW battery storage auction.