Thanks to all the staff and customers over the last four years, we look forward to continuing to serve you under the Lightforce brand.
When we were looking to expand our operation we talked with Lightforce and it became very clear that they shared our values and our focus on the customer. iGenerate has doubled its turnover and staff – all of whom will now work for Lightforce – each year for the past three years so we needed an ambitious partner.
History of Lightforce
Lightforce was founded by trained electrician Luke Nutting in 2013 and is now responsible for around 20% of the country’s solar installs. It employs over 50 staff, with plans to employ another 50 at least by the end of 2021. It will be hiring more installers, electricians, consultants and customer service people in the Marlborough and Nelson/Tasman regions in the near future.
Nutting says iGenerate, which also operates in Raglan and Wellington, fitted perfectly with its ambitious national expansion plans.
“One of the most important things when you’re trying to go nationwide is to maintain a local presence,” he says. “Mark and his team have a stellar reputation in the industry for high-quality work, including installing panels on the NASDAQ listed solar company Enphase’s research facility in Christchurch, so it just made sense.”
Unwin says one of the main drawcards of a partnership with Lightforce was that its customers deal with one company, from sales through to installation and customer service.
“No-one else is doing it like that at a national level,” Unwin says. “You can lose control of the process when the install gets contracted out, so that in-house model was non-negotiable and so important for our customers.”
Because of this structure, it also means Lightforce is committed to training.
“It’s a complicated process, so you definitely don’t want people learning on your roof,” says Nutting. “We are committed to putting every new installer through rigorous training before they step foot on any roof so the quality of workmanship is exceptional and we get the job done right first time.”
Lightforce also has direct relationships with solar panel manufacturers and recently signed an exclusive partnership with Energizer Homepower batteries. Being able to store the sun’s energy has been a game-changer, says Nutting, and around 90% of the systems Lightforce installs now include batteries. In comparison, Unwin says the vast majority of iGenerate’s installs haven’t included batteries, so it plans to make the most of the exclusive distribution deal.
Lightforce also aims to use the force for good and has committed to installing a free solar system every quarter for a charity or not-for-profit, as well as other charitable initiatives.
“It’s not always about making a sale for them, it’s about making a difference,” says Unwin, who is a big supporter of the Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough “It’s fantastic that Lightforce has recognised the work they do and continued on with the sponsorship.”
While Unwin says iGenerate largely focused on the residential market, there is growing demand for solar in the agriculture, horticulture and viticulture sectors. iGenerate recently installed solar systems at Lawson’s Dry Hills and the Bragato wine research institute and Lightforce customer and Whatawhata goat farmer James Hill says some months he’s actually getting paid for his energy generation, compared to bills of over $1,500 per month previously.
“Winemakers know that the best grapes are ‘solar powered’ and, increasingly, so are the best wineries,” Unwin says. “There’s a really big push for sustainability at the moment as businesses look for lower-carbon energy sources. With the price of the systems coming down and the price of power going up, it also makes financial sense. Everyone’s looking for an edge.”
The upfront costs of solar have been seen as a barrier in the past, but they can now be paid back in just five years, with no subsidies. And when the wholesale price of power is higher than the cost of storage, which Nutting believes could happen this year, that will be a major tipping point.
“Penetration of solar is still low here, but a lot of people are starting to notice solar panels on people’s roofs,” says Unwin. “The momentum is starting to build and with our bikes, lawnmowers, power tools and cars going electric, it will definitely play a major part in taking the pressure off an already stretched national grid. We can all have mini power plants on our own roof and battery storage in our garage.”
Nutting says Lightforce is fuelled by a collective of New Zealanders who are affordably generating their own electricity from the sun, helping to look after the planet and doing good for those in need.
“We want to create a lighter, brighter future for the country. And we’re stoked to have Mark and the iGenerate team join us on our mission.”
Images available on request. For more information or to request an interview, contact Ben Fahy on 021 245 4894 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.