Installer profile: Ploughcroft's Chris Hopkins
A former national bodybuilding champion, Chris Hopkins, founder and managing director of Yorkshire’s Ploughcroft, is a man on a mission. His goal? To become the UK’s number one solar installer and a household name.
Thanks to the last series of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, it’s looking like this just might happen. In the two weeks following Chris’s appearance on the show, Ploughcroft received more than a thousand enquiries from homeowners interested in solar panels and he is working closely with Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis, the Dragons who are backing him. Since the show, Ploughcroft has taken on 20 new staff and the firm now has eight renewable installation training centres across the UK.
How it all started
Ploughcroft certainly isn’t a fly-by-night solar success story. Having worked with his father in the family-run roofing firm since 1997, Chris took over the helm in 2004 and decided to focus his efforts on team development and creating a roofing company that was a little different from the rest. His vision was to provide ‘hassle-free roofing delivered with a smile’, and to help other members of the roofing industry to improve their skills.
Then, in 2005, Chris made a strategic decision to become specialists in the solar roofing installation sector. Ploughcroft became the first roofing contractor in the UK to achieve Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation – a pre-requisite for all solar PV installers – leading them to be named as ‘Best in Britain’ for their work fitting photovoltaic (PV) solar panels by the MCS in early 2010.
Being an active member of various industry bodies, including the Federation of Master Builders, NAPIT and the Solar Trade Association, Chris quickly built up a raft of blue chip contacts.
Always passionate about training and excellence within the solar and roofing industries, Ploughcroft has a dedicated training division and is the only roofing contractor with an NVQ solar roof training centre and CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) centre in the UK. Chris has worked with the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NRFC) to develop and deliver the NRFC Solar Roofing Course, which has been provided to over 150 companies nationwide. The current solar roofing NVQ unit was developed by Chris, and is used by Construction Skills in colleges and for training companies across the UK.
Following the launch of the government’s Feed-in-tariff scheme back in April 2010, homeowners interest in solar PV panels went through the roof and Ploughcroft expanded significantly in order to handle customers’ demand for solar. On the back of this consumer demand came a huge surge in interest from companies wanting to get into the renewables industry and get the right training.
What’s next for solar?
Although the Government recently announced that from this April the FIT will be reduced, Chris is confident that British homeowners and businesses’ interest in solar will remain high due to new initiatives such as the Green Deal. He says: “The last 12 months have been a life changing period for me and the company. My appearance on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme a few months ago has had a massive impact on the business and our aim to become the UK’s number one solar PV panel installer is now actually becoming a reality.
“In order to continue this level of success I will continue to be extremely passionate about the future of renewable skills, renewable energy, and the sustainability of the planet. It’s crucial for us to retain and build our relationships within the renewables industry, and I’ll be making sure that I meet with DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) on a regular basis.
“In order to meet the 2020 renewables targets, I believe the Government needs to fast-track a programme of renewable energy product integration, with initiatives similar to FIT, Renewable Heat Initiative and Green Deal.
“My Dragons’ Den experience has really put Ploughcroft on the renewable energy and solar map, and I’m extremely excited about what the future holds. Watch this space!”