It was a chance meeting in the Isles of Scilly that led to Forres-based managing director George Goudsmit persuading the Queen to install solar panels at Balmoral.
Mr Goudsmit, of AES Solar, was in St Agnes to attend a party to celebrate the success of his daughter’s business, Little Island Chocolate.
The function was also attended by the Queen and it was there Mr Goudsmit seized his opportunity to have a chat.
The 80-year-old said: “I was invited to a party the Queen was also attending.
“I could see she was shaking hands with everyone and when it came to my turn she asked if I lived here.
“I said: ‘No, I live in Inverness’. She then asked what I do there and I told her I make solar panels.
“She was very interested in that and we talked about it for about 20 seconds.
“As she walked away she turned around and said: ‘Maybe I should have solar panels at Balmoral’.
“It was all very nice and civilised.”
‘You don’t slip your business card to the Queen’
Mr Goudsmit, who recently received a lifetime achievement award at the Solar and Storage Awards, waited two weeks before chasing up the potential business opportunity.
He said: “You don’t slip your business card to the Queen, so I waited two weeks – but nobody contacted me so I wrote to Buckingham Palace.
“By return post, they wrote back with an appointment to go to Balmoral to measure up and see what we could do there.”
Mr Goudsmit and his team carried out a site survey at Balmoral Estate four years ago.
He said: “We measured them up and met the caretakers. The Queen wasn’t in otherwise I’d have had tea with her.
“It was a very nice feel to it and they knew what they wanted.
“We installed solar thermal panels on one of the houses. It was a nice little project.”
Looking to the future Mr Goudsmit is hopeful AES Solar will be asked back to carry out even more work fat Balmoral.
He said: “The castle may come. It is an incredibly complicated building for solar energy – so many roofs.
“We have talked about it and if it wasn’t for Covid, I’m sure we would’ve been back.
“They are still very interested but everything has come to a stop.”
Several key roles in industry
Mr Goudsmit took over AES Solar from founder Lyle Schnadt in 1989.
The business was primarily part of the Findhorn Foundation – an ecovillage in Moray – before it moved to the neighbouring town of Forres.
Mr Goudsmit has held several roles in the UK solar industry over the past 30 years.
He was appointed a board member of the Solar Trade Association, now Solar Energy UK, and was part of its senior management team for 20 years.
He also played key roles in the founding of the Scottish Solar Energy Group, Scottish Renewables, Solar Cities Scotland, and Seda Solar – the solar branch of the Scottish Ecological Design Association.
As for retirement, Mr Goudsmit has no plans to slow down.
He said: “It’s a very exciting industry and there are so many new and possible avenues.”
AES Solar, which celebrated its 40th year in 2019, despite the pandemic, has grown by 12 additional employees to a full-time team of 33.