From Humble Beginnings - Part 2
by Diana Gosper
From the back of a van, to a market stall, to a little shop front, to today's massive premises and online shop, RPC have seen a lot in its 33 years in business; Our passionate 3 founding members have exploded to 35 employees – and we are the biggest employer in the little town of Nimbin.
RPC is the largest solar powered workshop in the southern hemisphere, making us totally self-sufficient for power, with the added benefit of being able to sell excess power to the grid and buy it back again when needed (i.e. when there is insufficient sun).
Memorable moments in our journey include Confest '91, when three RPC workers drove 20 hours straight to arrive in time to power the entire site; 100 panels set up in the middle of the festival provided power for 5000 nearly naked and nearly normal people.
A year later Greens member for parliament and rock star Peter Garrett opened the new Rainbow premises at #1 Alternative Way. This was the early 90s, a time when RPC really were the trailblazers for alternative energy-not so any more. Now with hundreds of solar retailers in Australia, 21% of Australia's electricity came from renewable energy in 2018 making the rooftop solar PV a multi-billion dollar industry. In the last quarter of 2018 NSW generation from large scale solar farms for the first time exceeded the generation from gas fired plants (by 108 gWh).
Investing in the local area, we support a number of community events and organisations, but we don't stop there; RPC have a long history of participation in solar projects in PNG, the Solomon Islands, and throughout the Pacific region.
Bucking Australian consumer trends of the early 2000s, 2006 saw RPC rightly win an award for Most Environmentally Friendly Business (Lismore area); one of many environmental business awards to come.
Also bucking lending trends, banks and financial institutions in the 00s and early 10s started to offer 'green' and 'eco' loans to eligible people wanting to install solar power.
At RPC, we've always done things differently; one staffer memorably caught and removed a carpet snake that was in the caretaker's cottage- on her first day at work! In the recent bush fires many staff relocated their prized possessions to RPC, with quite a few using it as a temporary home also. During those two weeks staff came and went sporadically as they fought to save their homes and communities; RPC granting leave, supplying stationary, marquees, meals, tools, high vis shirts and at times transport, to those in need - small things but greatly appreciated in unprecedented hardships.
Music jams, table tennis tournaments and pizza nights are common at RPC; workshop attendees camp out the back, and they celebrate every worker's birthday with a home-made cake. Staff help each other with system design and sales problems, and staff planning days make the most of their ever expanding knowledge base. Of course staff attend the famous weekend workshop Living with Solar free of charge, increasing their knowledge about off the grid stand alone power systems and their components.
Cosmic discussions regarding not just solar power, are common and encouraged; more than one innovative product has resulted from one of the many 'pipe dreams' or propositions from those early days of brainstorming in the specially designed courtyard, which for years served as a natural 'air-conditioned' meeting place. Water dragons, spiders and some snakes (of the non-venomous persuasion) are unofficial mascots! We do also have some canine mascots these days, and staff's children are often in the lunch room waiting for mum or dad to finish work, sometimes they might even wash a car for some pocket money- old school!
Recent changes to standards and legislations (and covid) have seen the company stride into the new decade with aplomb, applying new technologies and design practices to ensure 100% compliance. RPC customers can rest assured that the safety of their home (or business) -and that of their family- is priority number one, and that no corners are cut when it comes to safety standards.
Although they now have new corporate uniforms and a company sales car (logo and all!), they really are still just a larger version of that first market stall- like-minded people coming together to find a solution to the ever growing need for clean power.
Rainbow Power Company Ltd is an unlisted public company, incorporated in 1987 when there were only 8 solar companies in Australia - now there are 100s.