Sun shines on latest SES deal

LISTED Western Australian solar energy player Solar Energy Systems has signed an indefinite distribution agreement with Hugall & Hoile for its Sun Mill pumps, potentially a major step in its goal of becoming one of the world’s first solar energy companies to reach profitability.

Hugall & Hoile, a listed WA-based irrigation systems merchandiser and wholesaler, had a one-year distribution agreement for the SES pumps.

It has also received funding for a feasibility study of a decentralised bottled water service business in the Maldives using its Solarflow water purification system.

SES managing director Anthony Maslin said water purification was one of the key planks of SES’s business.

“We can deliver water to where its value is highest,” he said.

“The classic market for this is on islands.”

The Sun Mill looms as a replacement for the iconic Australian windmill, due to its simplicity and ease of maintenance.

The pump is mostly made of non-corrosive plastics and parts can be changed easily. Even the electronics parts of the machinery, such as the regulator and the tracking devices for the solar panels, can be bypassed easily if they malfunction.

The Sun Mill pumps range in price from $3,500 to $12,000.

The smaller pumps can shift about 4,500 litres a day on a 10-metre pump head and the largest model shifts around 35,000 litres a day.

Mr Maslin said the Hugall & Hoile distribution deal was one of 90 such deals the company had around Australia. He said one agent the company had, a sole trader, was turning over $500,000.

For its part, Hugall & Hoile sees the deal as mutually beneficial.

Hugall & Hoile managing director Dave Nicholls said the Sun Mill was an attractive alternative to windmills to many farmers.

“Besides, they buy a lot of their materials from us,” he said.

Higher rainfalls around Australia are expected to give Sun Mill sales a boost. After all, people are less likely to buy pumps when their is no water for them to shift.

With the Sun Mill pump starting to win market share and the Solarflow project taking a large step forward, Mr Maslin is confident the company can reach its maiden profit in 2003-04.

“That would make us one of three or four solar energy companies in the world, if not the only one, to attain a profit,” he said.

“We had a touch under $800,000 in cash receipts in the last quarter.

“We recorded a loss of $30,000 for that quarter.”

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