In the early 2000s, Atilla Lugos worked as a handyman for a construction company. When he saw the great potential of photovoltaic systems, he established his own company, Optimum Solar Kft. in 2011 to install solar panels on residential houses. Currently, the company designs and builds solar parks. The owner’s son, Roland Lugos, joined the company in 2013.
This new manager, however, started to show an interest in the “solar industry” much earlier. When he was only 13, Roland first learned about solar panels and alternative energy sources from the book “Images: Space”. Before joining Optimum Solar, he learnt the trade as a structural engineer at architectural design studios, major general contractors and a competitor dealing with solar panels.
As the business started up, father and son learnt side by side how to build up a company or how deliver a big-volume order.
Optimum Solar started to grow quickly as the years went by. They did not stop at building solar parks however, and went on to become one of the biggest market players. They also offer comprehensive administrative support including applications for loans and permits as well as communications with the authorities, and also provide their clients with after-sales support. They ensure the profitability of long-term investment projects through their facility management partner, Reliable Energy Group Zrt. Thus the entire process is extremely long, as the operating time could last even decades. By contrast, the design and installation phases could take a couple of years at the longest, even in a more complex investment project.
They re-invest the profits generated on the installation phase into other projects, working in cooperation with major investors through their company group.
Sometimes, they buy a 20% to 40% share in a solar-panel project, and also in some cases provide development services for their partners in exchange for a 10% to 15% share.
The efficiency of the installed solar panels is ensured by a technology developed partly by Optimum Solar. The end results are then certified by a university research team in Germany. This allows the company to give a 25-year warranty for its products (competitors generally offer 10- to 12-year warranties).
State programmes such as the mandatory purchase system (KÁT in Hungarian) help market players, including Optimum Solar, a lot, because the state purchases renewable power mandatorily for a fixed statutory price. Hungary is also a favourable location for the solar sector, because of its high number of sunlight hours.
This industry also faces its difficulties, just like other industries. Adapting to EU aid schemes is, for example, not that easy, because the EU continually changes its regulations. Sometimes they give funds for purchasing alternative energy, at other times for building power plants.
The company has, however, overcome all obstacles so far. In 2017, this company, with a mere six years under its belt, already had a turnover of HUF 6.2 billion. Attila Lugos handed over the reins of the company’s management to his son two years ago, and a major transformation has taken place since then. The goal of this ongoing management transformation is to set up a corporate structure and to get ready for raising extra capital.
The Group’s headcount is over 100. The general manager emphasises that their employees understand, accept, and comply with the written and unwritten rules of being environmentally conscious. Their team can go practically anywhere in the country and includes, among others, electricians, structural builders, project mangers, electrical engineers, designers, and financial professionals. Many of them have been with Optimum Solar since the beginning. At the beginning, other members of the management also mounted solar panels with the founder.
Just like other construction projects, installing photovoltaic systems requires a lot of capital, and building a power plant often requires a bank loan or a bank guarantee. But Optimum Solar can get loans relatively easily, because their financial stability and the average 10-year payback period of their solar parks give them the necessary credibility. In other words, the company’s business model is sustainable.
The company group Optimum Solar belongs to is continually broadening its profile, and is involved in industrial-scale investment projects as well as projects for SMEs and retail customers. They plan to fit 1,000 to 1,500 family houses with solar panels a year in the future. This year, the Group has also entered the market of e-car chargers.
In addition to utilising renewable energy, Optimum is also trying to leave its mark through various public initiatives. More specifically, the company donates funds to a foundation supporting the goals of Zsolt Vereczkei, a Paralympian, as well as the production of a TV show presenting and discussing green topics. Moreover, they also try to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection, both locally and all over the country.
The outlook for Optimum Solar is especially positive, because renewable energy is playing an increasingly significant role in power supply in the EU. The continuous development of the technology and production capacities is making solar park installation more and more cost-effective; thus attracting even more capital into the industry. Currently, they can install 50 to 70 MW power-generation capacities annually, and their goal is to increase this to 100 to 150 MW within a couple of years.