Central Victoria's largest solar retailer, the Bendigo-based company Cola Solar, has been sold to RACV Solar.
Under the deal, all of Cola Solar's 40 employees will join RACV Solar, a move the RACV claims will help expand its business and also help Australians transition to a cleaner energy future.
Cola Solar co-founder Tony Ruff said he was thrilled with the sale of his business to RACV.
"RACV is a 118-year-old company that will bring enormous benefits to our region in the renewable energy sector," he said.
Mr Ruff and his wife Kaye opened Cola Solar in Bendigo 12 years ago in conjunction with Mr Ruff's brother David Cola and nephew Mathew Cola.
In 2013, Dave and Matt opted out of the business leaving Tony and Kaye in charge.
The Cola family has had a strong family history within the trades, starting with Tony Ruff's father Leo Cola.
Leo started his working life as an electrician and built an electrical contracting business called LR Cola Electrical in Sydney.
Tony went on to become a carpenter and with the help of his wife and partner Kaye opened Leisure Lattice in 1998, drawing on Tony's business skills and Kaye's retail and customer service skills in their joint venture.
Kaye and Tony eventually sold the business when Tony's younger brother Paul saw the trend in renewable energy and decided to pursue a solar business.
"We commenced our Cola Solar journey with great faith in the solar industry, observing consistent rises in electricity costs and a healthy increase in the commercial side of the business over time," Mr Ruff said.
Cola Solar has 40 staff spread across several in-house departments and has completed more than 7000 solar installations throughout central Victoria and into New South Wales, installing some 47MW of solar in the past 12 years.
Mr Ruff said solar and batteries were beneficial to both homeowners and businesses, especially in cutting electricity costs and reducing a person's carbon footprint.
"Now, with battery storage, our customers are increasing their energy independence and can use their solar energy when the sun isn't shining, such as at night or during a blackout," he said.
The solar expert said he was selling the business because he and his wife had been considering retirement and are looking forward to some down time.
He said they chose RACV Solar because their values strongly aligned with the company.
"We wanted to ensure that if anyone was to acquire Cola Solar, they would continue to develop our workforce and increase investment in the local region," Mr Ruff said.
"RACV Solar are firmly committed to those local investments, so we both feel delighted and confident that our customers and staff will be looked after into the future.
"We will still be somewhat involved with the business over the coming 12 months to ensure the transition goes smoothly.
"Our sons are also staying on in their respective roles at Cola Solar, so yes, we will continue to be connected with the solar energy industry."
RACV Solar chief executive officer Andy McCarthy said he and the RACV Solar team were thrilled to work with such a great regional business and extend their services into the region, support locals through the acquisition, and create employment and economic benefits for the regional economy.
Imparting some words of wisdom to budding solar panel businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, Mr Ruff's key message was: "Don't give up, the highs will definitely outweigh the lows".
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