FEW of us can claim to be much cop at predicting the future, but when it comes to home energy Fraser MacKenzie is confident that solar panels will soon be the norm.

The entrepreneur from Airdrie has been quick to capitalise on Scottish Government building regulations requiring new homes to be able to produce some of their own energy from renewable sources, and now his firm is going from strength to strength by helping Scotland achieve its green targets.

The 45-year-old worked in public sector regeneration services for 14 years before moving into the housing association sector, where he saw the potential of solar photovoltaic systems (PV) – what most of us would recognise as solar panels - for domestic use.

And, after moving to work for a company that went into administration following cuts to UK Government green subsidies, he and a colleague, Chris Whitehead, set up Voltair Energy. Since then they’ve been supplying specialist ventilation and solar energy systems to big housebuilding clients including Cala and Cruden, as well as ongoing management for a further 3,000 social homes, up and down Scotland.

Just over a year after creation the business is profitable and expanding, and Mr MacKenzie is looking towards the future.

“Initially all the solar energy investment was in England because people assumed the sun never shines in Scotland,” smiles the father-of-three. “But that’s not the case at all. The east of Scotland in particular gets enough sunshine hours to have a comparable energy yield to parts of the south east of England.

“This market is growing organically. At the moment people moving into new homes are willing to pay for a better standard of kitchen or flooring. Soon they’ll see the benefits of upgrading to more solar PV panels.

“Battery technology is already coming down in price, and soon we’ll have homes being able to generate and save all their own electricity. Public sector buildings are increasingly looking towards this too – in fact, we’ve just won our first contract to work with a primary school in Inverclyde. It’s a really exciting time.”

After many years spent working for others, Mr MacKenzie is relishing the chance to take the lead in a smaller, leaner operation.

“We’re very adaptable and we’ve learned lessons from our former workplaces,” he explains. “We saw others pay out too much to consultants for services like marketing. We realised it’s better to keep things tight and ensure debt is at a minimum.

“I'd say always concentrate on the things that will make you money and pay your bills - and don’t spend your money before you’ve earned it.

“We’ve got a good reputation because we have experience and references to back it up. In only our second year of business we’re profitable and looking to take on more installers.”

The firm is based at Storage Vaults in Cambuslang, which works out particularly well for an expanding company like Voltair.

“What I’m attracted to most is the flexibility of the contracts and the opportunity to network with the other businesses on site,” says Mr MacKenzie. “And the staff are great – they like to keep their clients happy.”

The businessman has no regrets about leaving behind the stability of his previous life in the public sector, even though he admits running your own business can be tough.

“When you negotiate a new client or project it’s a great feeling,” he adds. “And being in charge of your own destiny keeps you very motivated. The flip side of that is that you have to work really hard to make your business successful. And you never clock out, you’re always looking for the next thing - but that’s the bit I love most. ”

With this in mind, Mr MacKenzie believes others should consider taking the plunge into self-employment.

“I did this at just the right time in my life, and when I had knowledge and experience of the market, although you always learn on the job,” he says.

“Even if you work for a big employer, don’t be afraid to go out on your own and make things happen.

“Persevere, even when things aren’t going your way. If you have a good product or service, good staff and clients who want your services, you’ll find a way to make it work.”