Technology's top names: PowerSmart

Solar electricity systems Revenue (est): $5.4m

PowerSmart directors Shane Robinson (left), Mike Bassett-Smith and Dean Parchomchuk. Photo / Alan Gibson
PowerSmart directors Shane Robinson (left), Mike Bassett-Smith and Dean Parchomchuk. Photo / Alan Gibson

Working in the Pacific over the past year has left solar power company PowerSmart with a successful large-scale solar project, a hearty tan for several of their staff, and a spot in the TIN100+ list of companies.

Estimated revenue of $5.4 million this year has resulted in the Mt Maunganui company entering the TIN100+ for the first time in 155th place.

Now in its fifth year, privately owned PowerSmart is one of the largest solar power companies in New Zealand - no small feat for a team who started with nothing, says director Mike Bassett-Smith.

"The most challenging aspect for us was trying to get up and going. It's quite a capital-intensive business and we really started with nothing and no backing.

"We've put all our own money where our mouth is," he says.

Easily the highlight of the company's history so far has been the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project.

Completed late last year, the $7.5 million New Zealand aid-funded project involved PowerSmart installing solar power systems on three atolls, allowing Tokelau to become the first country to meet its climate change obligations 100 per cent.

In the past, Tokelau had consumed about 800 litres of fuel a day (costing roughly 15 per cent of its budget), but the island nation is now completely solar powered.

For PowerSmart, the project helped win the clean-tech and sustainability section of the New Zealand Innovators awards last year.

Despite the scale of the project, Bassett-Smith says the company is hoping to repeat it, and if possible go even bigger for its next venture.

Bassett-Smith cites company culture as being vital to PowerSmart's success. Despite the table-tennis table, dartboard, coffee machine and hammock for midday naps, he insists the team - which includes a Bernese mountain dog as morale and wellness officer - is incredibly hard-working.

"We are results-focused and very close as a team. For us it is all about our core values and in everything we do we try to align ourselves with those values by asking ourselves, why are we doing this project? And through all the business decisions we make."

PowerSmart's system is based on an inclusive model where the company provides, installs and maintains the solar power system all the way through the process.

"For us, once a customer signs up, we represent them entirely whether they have been with us for five years or one day."

While the company has been working in other areas of the Pacific such as Samoa and Fiji, as well as Costa Rica and the Philippines, Bassett-Smith notes that its main focus is still on New Zealand.

He says its latest project, which focuses on storing solar energy, could provide a pathway for consumers to take complete control of their electricity costs.

PowerSmart is now working on a scheme which will help New Zealand schools become solar powered - a goal which Bassett-Smith says fits the company's values to a T.

- NZ Herald

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