By Melissa Keogh
Local solar designer Josh Buckton knows too well that South Australia is on the cusp of a renewables revolution.
As one of clean energy company ZEN Energy’s solar designers, the young electrician-by-trade has made a career out of Earth’s truest renewable resource – the sun.
Josh’s job is to liaise with ZEN team members on the design, layout, installation and pricing of residential and commercial solar systems.
“I undertake a complete design and review of everything from residential to large-scale multi-megawatt rooftop solar projects, attend site inspections and ensure everything is installed to the correct standards,” he says.
“We are installing a large amount of solar systems every week … with a growing number of them for business and industry, which is picking up at a rapid rate.”
According to the Climate Council, 31% of SA households have adopted solar technology.
Solar and wind power are the main contributors to renewable energy generation, with SA now holding a 53% share in renewable electricity.
Josh’s solar story began with a four-year electrical apprenticeship and various stints across Adelaide, including installing light controls in the world-class new Royal Adelaide Hospital.
But with renewable energy beginning to deliver an explosion of jobs and a boost in economic prosperity, he noticed all signs were pointing towards a career in solar design.
“We have plenty of opportunities here … the renewable energy sector has gone pretty crazy and SA is becoming one of the world leaders in sustainable energy solutions,” he says.
Josh has been a part of the ZEN Energy squad since July 2017 and is based at the ZEN Energy headquarters in the Sustainable Industries Education Centre at Tonsley.
This year has provided much inspiration for employees at ZEN – SA’s fastest growing company and a world leader in renewable energy and storage solutions.
In September 2017, ZEN made headlines when British billionaire and Whyalla steelworks saviour Sanjeev Gupta bought a majority stake in the company.
The result was joint venture SIMEC ZEN Energy, which will improve energy security and drop power prices for both the steelworks and other large energy users in SA.
SIMEC ZEN Energy will supply the State Government with 80% of its electricity needs in 2018, rising to 100% of its needs in 2019.
ZEN Energy is also behind a $1 billion solar, battery, pumped hydro and demand management project, totalling over one gigawatt of generation.
It’s tipped to be the largest solar and power storage investment in the country.
Josh says the uptake of renewable energy is not only evident in these economy-driving projects, but at all levels.
He says more businesses are adopting solar technology with an increased interest in smart energy storage.
ZEN’s battery storage solutions include grid connect systems (connected to the electricity grid) in addition to standalone systems that will “take you off-grid completely”.
A typical solar system involves photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted to a roof, and an inverter that converts direct current electricity into alternating current power.
Power not used in the home or business is exported to the electricity grid, earning the owner a small credit from their electricity retailer.
Systems with battery storage involve the unused solar energy being stored for later use when the sun is not shining, or for businesses to decrease their demand charges through smart energy management.
With SA expected to reach a 50% renewable energy target by 2025 and a zero net emissions target by 2050, green energy solutions are tipped to rejuvenate jobs and bring back cash flow into regional SA.
ZEN Energy founder Richard Turner told Brand South Australia’s recent I Choose SA for Industry event that all eyes are on SA’s renewable sector.
“This is what we’re calling the new industrial revolution,” he says.
“This is where the long term, sustainable jobs are going to come from.
“When we start harnessing what is the best renewable energy resource in the world, the shift in prosperity that is going to gravitate to this state will stun us all.”