Top accolade for renewable energy pioneer

Exeter green energy pioneer Gabriel Wondrausch has been named Environmental Entrepreneur at the Devon Environmental Business Initiative (DEBI) Awards.

Gabriel, who set up leading renewable energy company SunGift Solar in 2005, was recognised by judges for being pioneer in the development of renewable energy in Devon.  Starting from nothing, Gabriel built up his renewable energy business – initially from the spare room of his house – into what is now a business that now turns over £millions per year and employs 30 members of staff.

The awards’ ceremony was held at the Met Office – home of SunGift’s highest-profile solar PV installation – and Gabriel received his award from Richard Creswell, south west director of the Environment Agency.

“It’s a privilege to be honoured with this award,” said Gabriel, “particularly among such a strong field of other nominees.  My vision has always been to provide a service that enables others to generate their own renewable energy and preserve our natural resources, and it’s pleasing to be recognised for the work I’ve done.”

Judges were particularly impressed that the foundation of Gabriel’s business is a deep belief in renewable energy, combined with strong commercial acumen.

Brought up in Totnes, Gabriel grew up experiencing a close relationship with the environment, and he took his first steps into renewable energy when he put up the first solar thermal panels at the home of Transition Towns’ founder Rob Hopkins.

Gabriel’s desire to find not only new and better technologies but also new and better ways to employ them has resulted in him developing relationships with some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world, such as BenQ and LG.  As a result, he was the first person to bring these technologies into the UK, giving new and better opportunities to customers and other businesses in Devon before other areas of the country.

This ethos has filtered out into every area of Gabriel’s business, with him employing staff and working with other companies that share similar values.

“I always try to translate my optimism for green energy into business opportunities,” added Gabriel, “providing customers with a complete renewable energy journey.  I feel it’s important that the our sector works in a similar way to more mature industries, so we ensure that we take care of the whole process of an installation, tying up every loose end and leaving customers 100 per cent satisfied.”

In addition to the core areas of his business, Gabriel is involved in sustainable energy on a much wider level.  He is a key member of Transition Town Exeter and Exeter Sustainable Business Initiative, bringing a commercial reality to their discussions, and he is a regular speaker at industry events and conferences. Gabriel is also an expert contributor on the YouGen website, a column writer for renewable energy magazines such as Solar Business Focus, and a promoter of renewable energy in general – taking the Sungift Solar van to many events, including Radio 5 Live’s Energy Day (where the whole day’s broadcasting was powered by renewable energy).

Andy Vickery, Chairman of DEBI said: “As in previous years, this year’s awards covered an eclectic and impressive spectrum of businesses in Devon, both small and large, who are demonstrating true innovation and creativity when it comes to running their operations in an environmentally sustainable way.”

By SunGift Solar