More jobs as Canadian battery maker flicks the switch in SA

Up to 200 new jobs will be created over the next three years as a Canadian energy storage firms invests in South Australia’s booming battery sector.

Eguana Technologies will invest $12 million in assembling and manufacturing its cutting edge Evolve home energy storage system in Adelaide.

The global innovator is the latest company to invest in the state’s battery sector, with German energy storage giant Sonnen and Chinese battery manufacturer Alpha-ESS also establishing an SA presence.

The three companies are approved suppliers under the state’s Home Battery Scheme that allows 40,000 households to access up to $6000 in subsidies and low-interest loans to pay for the installation of home batteries and solar.

Until December 31, households can purchase subsidised batteries from Sonnen, Alpha-ESS or Eguana Technologies. Under an agreement with the State Government, the priority period awards system providers who install batteries manufactured or assembled here in SA.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway says he’s pleased to welcome Eguana as the latest international company to invest in SA and commit to manufacturing and assembling their batteries in Adelaide.

“Based in Calgary, Eguana Technologies designs and manufactures high performance residential and commercial storage systems, so to be able to bring their skills and technology to SA is a significant win,” he says.

“Since we announced the Home Battery Scheme, we’ve had fantastic global leaders such as Eguana knocking on our door to be a part of the largest rollout of home batteries in the world.”

Eguana has 20 years of experience in delivering grid edge power electronics for fuel cells, photovoltaics and batteries from its manufacturing facilities in Europe and North America.

Eguana Technologies chief technology officer Brent Harris says the announcement confirms SA as a world leader in the use of solar and battery technology.

“The requirement for smart batteries is the first of its kind and the Evolve product was designed to support sophisticated programs that go beyond basic backup power and reducing consumption,” he says.

“We have already begun establishing our manufacturing capabilities in SA and look forward to providing choice to SA energy storage customers.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Zero-emission car service rolling out in SA

South Australia’s first zero-emission car service is rolling out across Adelaide, in support of the city council’s push for the southern capital to become carbon neutral.

The chauffeur service myCar, based at Tonsley Innovation District, aims to help reduce transport emissions and promote electric vehicle technology.

myCar founder and director Mark Harrington says the zero-emission vehicle service began in 2017 with a fleet of luxury hybrid Lexus and Mercedes cars, as well as electric Tesla vehicles.

However, he says the company is now shifting towards adding less expensive car brands to its fleet, including the Mitsubishi Outlander, a hybrid vehicle that services “at taxi prices”.

myCar still uses its luxury Tesla vehicles the ‘Model S’ and ‘ Model X’, which have a range of about 400km before running flat.

Mark says myCar will soon release new software, including an app, allowing passengers to choose their preferred type of vehicle and their favourite driver.

myCar founder and director Mark Harrington is the brains behind SA’s first zero-emission car service.

“Not only are we the first zero-emission car service in SA, but we are the only,” he says.

“It’s new technology like this that will enable drivers to become your affordable personal concierge on wheels so the experience feels like being in your own fancy car, only better.”

Mark says he envisages the app to also include information on public transport services such as trains and buses, and also flights.

“I can imagine a day where people don’t own their own cars at all, but it’s all about ride sharing and using transport through an app,” he says.

He can also see the day when autonomous vehicles in SA eventually become less of a novelty and more of a reality.

“At myCar we’re already running Teslas in auto pilot mode (with backup drivers of course), but I think that we’ll still have drivers for a while,” Mark says.

“For now, I expect that the sharing economy and autonomous driving will make it less important for more people to own their own vehicle.”

Mark has taken inspiration from successful trials in Holland and is now collaborating with Flinders University and local business Gelco to export electricity from car batteries to power households.

“Collaboration in business will enable us to realise our potential and make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city,” he says.

“At myCar we’re not just using the safest electric cars on the road, we’re supporting SA’s transition to sustainable energy by investing in electric and autonomous vehicle research.”

One of myCar’s Tesla vehicles.

myCar is a founding partner of Carbon Neutral Adelaide, an Adelaide City Council driven ambition to make the southern capital the world’s first carbon neutral city.

Carbon Neutral Adelaide aims to increase the proportion of hybrid and electric vehicle registrations to 15% by 2021.

Emissions from transport contribute to 35% of Adelaide’s total emissions with 90% of that coming from private passenger cars, according to the Adelaide City Council.

The myCar fleet is charged on electric car charging infrastructure set up across the state including regional areas and at locations across the city.

Mark grew up in the Adelaide Hills, becoming a global finance advisor overseas before moving home to run his own Adelaide-based firm, Infrastructure Finance Australia.

His decision to branch out into the transport industry carried on his family’s history in personalised chauffeur services, with his grandfather Jack Harrington running a horse-drawn carriage business in the Hills for many years.

Adelaide’s movement in the renewable energy space plus its strong entrepreneurial ecosystem made the perfect launchpad for myCar, Mark says.

“There is a great entrepreneurial spirit in Adelaide and myCar is proud to be part of this growing, dynamic business community,” he adds.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Local business drilling into global markets

An uplift in the South Australian mining and energy sector is seeing Adelaide company Trymoss Engineering poised to capitalise on new opportunities.

Signs of new projects activating across the state means new contracts are appearing and Trymoss is already looking to employ new staff, according to chief executive Stephen Moss.

It’s good news for supply chain businesses like the small northern suburbs company that is developing technologies not only used on mining and energy projects in SA, but on a global scale too.

Stephen says Trymoss Engineering and its 15 staff have been kept busy in the past few years as the business, established by his father, Jason Moss in 1992, has concentrated on its diverse revenue streams.

“In the last 12 to 18 months it has really picked up again, we’re up to five or six cylinders for a particular company, and we’ve picked up four or five new customers in recent months,” he says.

Family business Trymoss Engineering, based in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, has been manufacturing fittings and machinery since the early ’90s.

Trymoss Engineering specialises in hydraulic cylinder and manufacture repair for the mining industry and down-hole repairs on threads and tooling.

The hydraulic cylinders are designed and manufactured for excavators and trucks.

Then there’s also work Trymoss undertakes in the Australian agriculture, water, waste and transport industries, building or fixing hydraulics for anything from buckets on tractors to hooks on cranes.

“We’re just never one to put eggs in one basket, we do a vast array of machining and fabricating and fittings,” Stephen says.

“And now we’ve also found ourselves in a pretty niche part of the market manufacturing hydraulics to meet custom needs.”

This Trymoss product is a ‘CNC machining cooling hub’ for use in a power plant.

The company is also responsible for breakthrough technology tested and developed in SA.

It was when Stephen heard about American oil and gas companies struggling with a drill continually getting stuck on horizontal coal seams that he headed to the workshop to find a solution.

The Centrefire system that emerged from his tinkering has now been proved, patented in Canada, China, Russia, Australia and most recently the United States, and is primed and ready to tackle the recent uplift in the oil and gas industry.

“It’s unique, it’s the only one of its kind … and now we’re ready to roll,” says Stephen, who is chief executive of Trymoss Engineering and also its sister company and owner of the Centrefire technology, HPHT Drilling Tools.

The down-hole technology works by vibrating a drill or drill string to prevent tools from getting stuck or damaged during underground mining – and it first proved itself on its maiden outing with Beach Energy in SA during 2014.

Drill bits were continually breaking during the local project that involved particularly hard ground so the Centrefire was fitted above the bit “and acted a bit like a shock absorber and gently pulsed it forward”.

Trymoss Engineering chief executive Stephen Moss, left, and his brother Mitchell
Moss putting the Centrefire together.

The tool, Mr Moss said, prevented any further drill breakages.

On the back of this early success, Stephen took his invention to the US and quickly garnered interest from Canadian-based Cougar Drilling Solutions, and within months he was running some 20 jobs in Texas during 2015.

“We’d sent 10 to 15 units over to America and we couldn’t keep up,” he said.

But then the oil and gas crash hit, Cougar Drilling Solutions pulled out of the US, leaving HPHT Drilling Tools and its Centrefire tool “a bit stranded”.

While other parts of the business kept the work flowing, Stephen continued to prepare the Centrefire technology, organising the patents and ensuring it was well tested in the field.

The Centrefire in pieces.

Now the company is seeing an uplift in the oil and gas industry “especially in America where we were doing work before, in the past six months we’ve re-established connections with a few agents and we were back over there running a job in Oklahoma about three months ago”.

The new work secured overseas is not only creating more jobs in SA – as Trymoss expanded its workforce this year and HPHT is further developing the Centrefire technology – but it’s also strengthening the state’s ties with international mining and resource sectors.

HPHT Drilling Tools is also working hard to protect its technology, only renting out the tool and not selling the product or the engineering designs in its work in Australia and the US.

Stephen claims his invention is far easier to use than similar products on the market that are much larger and harder to transport to site or to service or fix if they are damaged.

“I’m planning to head back to the US in the next month or so for a new job in Texas, that will be our first job with a new group and the potential is really, really promising,” he adds.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Building a bright future in Upper Spencer Gulf

When British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta signed a deal to turn around the fortunes of Whyalla and its struggling steelworks, he not only saved thousands of jobs but also injected an extraordinary boost of confidence into the region.

His widespread investment has Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer brimming with optimism for the state’s Upper Spencer Gulf and Business SA’s chief executive Nigel McBride relishing a wider lift in the economy.

Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance bought the town’s ailing steelworks from Arrium when it was in administration with some 6000 jobs under threat.

“We were in a really, really bad patch and it seemed like we were in a situation we weren’t going to get out of, when Mr Gupta came along and GFG it was such a blessed relief,” Mrs Breuer says.

Now she says the plans just keep getting better with announcements that the GFG Liberty OneSteel plant will double production and create a greener business model with more recycled steel and a focus on clean energy.

Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer speaks at a handover ceremony on the day GFG Alliance took over the steelworks. Photo by Jon Ortlieb.

Mr Gupta wants to build solar farms along with the country’s largest lithium ion battery and to eventually also develop new housing in Whyalla.

Contracts are being signed to upgrade the plant and Mrs Breuer says investigations are underway to expand the Whyalla port while GFG Alliance is taking on a majority stake in ZEN Energy to realise its national energy ambitions.

“People understand in the next 12 months we’ll see a real turn around in our town, we are looking toward to a more positive future than we ever have before,” Mrs Breuer says.

This key investment comes amid remarkable growth, particularly in renewable energy, in the region.

There are some 13 new investment projects underway, among them the Bungala solar power plant near Port Augusta being under construction, while the much-lauded concentrated solar thermal plant owned by Sundrop Farms is already running a hydroponic greenhouse to grow tomatoes.

Mayors from Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie met on Friday last week to discuss how their councils can help ensure there will be enough skilled workers to fill the expected rapid rise in job openings.

Mrs Breuer says Mr Gupta has certainly piqued the interest of other global investors.

An aerial view of the Whyalla steelworks. Photo by Jon Ortlieb.

Whyalla council officers were invited to China for meetings with two more companies keen on investing.

While in January, Becker Helicopters announced it was moving some 70 staff and its training operation from Queensland to the Upper Spencer Gulf city.

The state’s Industry and Skills Minister David Pisoni also reports a renewed optimism in the region more than 300km from Adelaide after visiting in June and July to talk with industry and small business people.

“The significant, and very much welcome, investment by Gupta Family Group in Whyalla is already having huge flow-on effects within the local community and beyond,” Mr Pisoni said.

“Employers and business have been given renewed confidence, the region is also attracting recognition and new investment from around the globe.”

The GFG Alliance itself is a global group of energy, mining, metals, engineering and financial services businesses, headquartered in London, with additional hubs in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney and a presence in around 30 countries worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Liberty OneSteel.

Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride says the state has attracted vital intelligent capital, capital that is leading to “global know how” around lowering material costs, greater energy efficiency and new products.

“GFG is bringing a global supply chain to Whyalla so we are part of something much bigger ….. and it’s not just people working directly in the steelworks that benefit, it’s also small businesses who service it and their employees.”

He believes the investment has given a huge boost to business confidence in regional SA at a time when the state’s job figures are rising.

Even the Federal Government is sending in cash, announcing funding of $19.4m for eight projects in the region during April that it hoped would create more than 500 new jobs.

The Upper Spencer Gulf was the only SA region, and one of only 10 nationally, to get pilot funding under the national $222m regional jobs and investment package.

The 1200 tonne crane German-made Liebherr all terrain crane will be used to build and maintain wind towers.

Max Cranes in Whyalla won $4.7m funding toward a $12m telescopic mobile crane – the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere – used to build and maintain wind towers.

While Whyalla’s Ice Engineering and Construction was awarded half the $10m cost of creating a hub for three existing Whyalla-based heavy engineering and manufacturing companies.

“It’s an extraordinary investment strategy in a range of complementary industries and resources that will be truly transformational in regional SA and across our state,” Mr McBride adds.

Header photo is courtesy of Liberty OneSteel.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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How the Port Augusta community helped repower the town with solar

Port Augusta’s Lisa Lumsden was in the supermarket when news broke of the town securing a $650m solar thermal power plant – the biggest of its kind in the world.

The announcement of SolarRerserve’s Aurora Solar Energy Project came with the promise of 650 construction jobs, 50 ongoing positions and delivered an immediate boost in town prosperity.

“Everybody was congratulating one another,” says Lisa, a local councillor and former Repower Port Augusta chairperson.

“The community attitude shifted because we had a new future coming.”

The news of the 150mW solar thermal power plant came in August 2017, more than a year after Port Augusta’s northern coal-fired power station closed, marking the end of an era.

After a five-year push from community advocacy group Repower Port Augusta for a switch from coal to solar, the town was on track to becoming a renewable energy powerhouse.

The Repower Port Augusta Group with Premier Jay Weatherill, Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis and SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith during a tour of the community.

The Aurora Solar Energy Project, located 30km north of Port Augusta, incorporates eight hours (1100mW hours) of storage.

Construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2018 and be completed by 2020.

It will involve a field of mirrors focusing sunlight onto a receiver at the top of a tower – the tallest of its kind in the world.

PHOTO: SolarReserve.

Liquid salt is pumped through the receiver where it’s heated to 565C before the salt is used to generate steam, drive a single turbine and generate electricity.

It’s designed to store between eight and 10 hours of energy, meaning it can operate when the sun is not shining.

Lisa says its widely recognised that the persistence and grit of the Repower Port Augusta Group helped secure the project.

The group advocated with both the Federal and State governments, held community forums with energy experts and worked with the local council, unions, businesses and environment groups nationwide.

The tower is the tallest of its kind in the world. PHOTO: SolarReserve.

“We were able to create a network of people around Australia to lobby for our town,” Lisa says.

“We want long-term jobs and we know that the coal-fired power station was going to close and that it wasn’t good for the environment.

“Our volunteers were putting in enormous hours and many sacrifices were going on behind the scenes.”

The Aurora Solar Energy Project is one of a handful of renewable energy projects in Port Augusta and expected to increase competition and lower power prices.

“The solar thermal plant will be the jewel in the crown but there are seven other projects under construction,” Lisa says.

“What we’ve got is quite incredible and the rest of the world will be watching.”

Current Repower Port Augusta chairperson Gary Rowbottom is a former Alinta Energy employee, having worked at the coal-fired power station for 17 years.

Repower Port Augusta chairperson Gary Rowbottom at a solar celebration event in September.

He watched the sun set on the Northern Power Station in 2016 but says the move away from coal was “crucial”.

“The cost of conventional (power) generation was going up, the cost of concentrating solar thermal down, and the convergenace of those relative costs reached a point where the gap was not much – with the benefit of no emissions and a reasonable number of jobs,” Gary says.

“I pushed the jobs line pretty hard myself, as that was a differentiating point from other forms of renewable energy, as was, in terms of scale, the amount of storage (mW hours/day) that concentrating solar thermal could provide.”

“There is no better place to build the solar thermal power plant than Port Augusta.”

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