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Scorpions and solar power in the Arabian Gulf


The birth of my first grandchild got me digging into an old trunk to find pictures of Brian with our two sons, Heston and Toddington when they were first born. It was a walk down memory lane that made me pleased to be of an age when you took photographs into a shop to be developed. These keepsakes are memories that I treasure, as I look back on how SEC and a new generation came into this world.

I uncovered pictures that transported me back to the days of heat and desert living when Brian and I first started our overseas business together. We had ambitiously decided to build energy efficient homes in the Arabian Gulf. In hindsight; doing this in a place where energy comes out of the ground in unimaginable quantities was a bit too forward thinking. But we learnt valuable lessons about ourselves, and the market place.

It’s ironic to think this was the birth of SEC. Brian Harper was first and foremost a ‘Can Do’ person. He was an energy saving pioneer and this venture, along with his vision of harnessing, storing and generating energy efficiently in the 70’s, was the beginning of the wild journey we continue on today.

Our first project was building solid wood New Zealand Lockwood Villas with Solahart water heaters, Arco Solar photovoltaics and Exide batteries. Before I knew it, I was staring at the most handsome and slim Brian building the first Lockwood home 5kms outside the Northern Emirate in the UAE, Ras al Khaimah.
The next photo is of his little helper who today is running SEC – Heston.

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Frankly it was a challenge, we were living like pioneers constructing an energy efficient home on a site that was literally in the middle of the dessert with absolutely no utilities. But as with all of Brian’s projects I came to understand that Brian’s ‘I’ll do it my way’ attitude, (although at times incredibly frustrating) inevitably worked, and worked well.

The Lockwood home arrived in containers and Brian ‘interior designed’ the first emptied one (sans luxury) to create what became our living quarters for several months. The young NZ crew called it the Donger! It was living there that I came to understand power overloading as we had a generator in the sand dunes. Brian would instruct us to crank and re fuel, while he dodged scorpions in the sand and yelled out to me “Heather! Did you put the kettle on at the same time as your hairdryer again?”

The building of these homes caught the attention of the media when we exhibited at the original Sharjah Souk. This resulted in several building projects that attracted even more interest in the relatively new concept of alternative energy. It was storing all this energy in batteries that brought more and more business to SEC and led to an approach by Exide to sell their batteries in the Middle East.

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As you can imagine, this changed the focus of our business interests in the region to providing power in remote locations. It was also during that time we built an ongoing relationship with Arco Solar and things really began to change.

But, I’ll tell you more about that next time.

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