Sunderland school friends set up solar power firm

Solar power: Alan Patchett from Age UK Sunderland with Lee Steabler and Shaun Lavender (in background)

Solar power: Alan Patchett from Age UK Sunderland with Lee Steabler and Shaun Lavender (in background)

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TWO pals brought the power of the sun to a pensioners’ charity.

Lee Steabler and Shaun Lavender were best buddies during their time at Farringdon School, but lost touch for more than 25 years.

But a chance meeting at a friend’s night out led to them becoming business partners in a green energy scheme.

Now the pair are helping to slash fuel bills at Age UK in Sunderland.

Lee, from Biddick in Washington, and Shaun, from Durham, fitted £4,500-worth of solar panels at the charity’s base in Stockton Road.

Before their paths crossed, the friends’ had followed very different careers.

Lee, 43, went into the roofing business and trained as an electrician, while Shaun joined the Army, then Durham Constabulary, before working as a security consultant in the Middle East.

Now the friends have teamed up to supply and fit green energy solutions, including solar panels, wind turbines and air/ground source heat pumps as Roof Trust Renewables.

Shaun, 47, said: “We met up after all those years at a mutual friend’s night out, and I explained to Lee that I’d been looking for a business opportunity to develop when I left my role in the Middle East.

“Lee recognised that my skills in planning, marketing and business development perfectly complimented his practical work and trade experience, so we’ve both concentrated our efforts on getting the business up and running.”

One of Lee’s first tasks was to prove to an industry certification scheme that his skills were good enough to gain accreditation.

“I was going to fit the solar panels to my home, but a friend of mine who is involved with the charity Age UK Sunderland, based at Bradbury House, mentioned they had high fuel bills and were looking at renewable energy options,” he explained.

“I thought that it was much more sensible to have my assessment done there as it would benefit so many people.”

Charity director, Alan Patchett was delighted with the work.

He said: “Age UK Sunderland is very grateful to Roof Trust Renewables for donating and installing the solar panel for us.

“We look forward to benefiting from the energy saving and income it will generate.”

Twitter: @janethejourno

Join generation game

HOUSEHOLDERS with solar panel systems get paid for the electricity they generate for themselves and even get paid for the watts they do not use, because they go back into the National Grid.

Anyone is entitled to generate their own electricity and get paid for it using the Government’s Feed-in-Tariff scheme.

It pays out money for every kilowatt hour generated by an accredited unit for up to 25 years.